When TV Watches Back

Earlier this year, Vizio was found guilty of collecting data on approximately 11 million consumer TVs without the user’s knowledge or consent, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

According to the lawsuit, which dates back February of 2014, Vizio and one of its affiliates had manufactured smart television sets that were able to capture “second-by-second information about video displayed on the smart TV” including that from cable, broadband, a set-top box, DVDs, over-the-air programming, and streaming devices.



As if this were not enough, all of the data included key specific information about the viewer such as sex, age, income, marital status, education level, and household size and value.



All of this information was gathered through Vizio’s Smart Interactivity feature that promised to provide suggestions for the consumer, but would also collect viewing data and potentially key-identifying information that was then sold to third parties that would use it to target consumers across the web and devices.



As a result, Vizio has settled the lawsuit with a payment of $1.5 million to the Federal Trade Commission as well as $1 million the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Along with the settlement, Vizio was required to delete all of the gathered data before March 1, 2016.



Howevee, Vizio is not the only company to collect information from its users. Samsung, LG and Sony all have some type of tracking capabilities, although they are not necessarily turned on by default nor without the user’s consent.



Yet even when these features are enabled, they are difficult to disable. According to The Verge, in order to turn off these features, users have to dig deep through TV menus to sections like Terms & Policy (Samsung), a service called LivePlus (LG), System Reset & Admin (Vizio) and Privacy Settings (Sony).



The Federal Trade Commission has since issued a set of guidelines, which are not a legal standard, but can serve to protect consumers and prevent TV manufacturers from profiting off user data.


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