January 6, 2020
According to tech columnist of the Washington Post Geoffrey A. Fowler (), smart TVs permanently spy on their users. As per eMarketer on average americans spend 3.5 hours daily watching TV. Users’ TV records may not contain sensitive search queries or transaction data, but that history allows for building customized profiles (including information on interests, personality, joys, etc.) and forming a report of used apps a...nd watched programs on both streaming TV and broadcasting TV. Geoffrey A. Fowler tested default settings (tapping OK on each on-screen prompt) on several best-selling brands smart TVs, I.e. Samsung, TCL Roku TV, Vizio and LG. Using software from Princeton University called the IoT Inspector, he discovered that each TV company was sending data to a brand’s server as often as one per second. A decade ago an Automatic Content Recognition feature was developed at Inscape (the data division of Vizio), and currently used everywhere. TVs capture a fingerprint of what is on the screen (two dozen square bundles of pixels scattered around the screen), convert it in a string of numbers, add specific information on device and other useful information (open apps, settings, etc.) and send it to a server. Later collected data are being transformed into useful form for providers of content and advertisers. Sony’s partner Samba TV and others offer re-targeting ads you see on TV across user’s computer and smart phone. TV companies say that they are not violating privacy, because ACR data do not content “personal identification information”, and users opted in by accepting rules (by default). However these data may contain a device ID, IP and MAC addresses of a TV-set and other connected devices. So it just needs to summarize information about person from different devices and apps to build complete profile.