As reported Vizio’s Smart TVs spied on you
Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.
What did Vizio know about what was going on in the privacy of consumers’ homes? On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. What’s more, Vizio identified viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Add it all up and Vizio captured as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs.
Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details – for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership. And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.
That’s what Vizio was up to behind the screen, but what was the company telling consumers? Not much, according to the complaint.
Well for their offense Vizio was slapped with 2.2million fine. Sounds like a lot, right? Well as a colleague of mine observed, that is 20cents per TV. In other words, it was a great ROI for Vizio and points out how toothless the FTC really is.
So what to do? Turn off all the Smart TV features, boycott Vizio (that said, Samsung and others are just as bad it may appear). Better Yet, unplug the TV from the Internet.
Some sites suggest that Roku and Apple streaming boxes front-ending your TV are better. I am not so sure as I know with the Roku, at least, one needs to reset your ID often to clear the tracking and there does not appear to be a permanent “Kill” switch for this type of spyware crap.
I am toying of building my own set top streaming device using the RasberryPI. If I do so, I will pay pay special attention to the privacy aspects of the embedded software I use and report findings here. Don’t hold your breath, time is at a premium of here.
Anyway – welcome to the iDIoT. The Insecure Dumbed-down Internet of Things