Lately I’ve been on the hunt for what happens to my data behind
the cloak of computer code and privacy policies. So I ran an
experiment on my own Internet-connected Samsung, as well as new
“smart TV” models from four of the best-selling brands: Samsung,
TCL Roku TV, Vizio and LG.
I set up each smart TV as most people do: by tapping “OK” with the
remote to each on-screen prompt. Then using software from
Princeton University called the IoT Inspector, I watched how each
model transmitted data. Lots went flying from streaming apps and
their advertising partners. But even when I switched to a live
broadcast signal, I could see each TV sending out reports as often
as once per second.
When tracking is active, some TVs record and send out everything
that crosses the pixels on your screen. It doesn’t matter whether
the source is cable, an app, your DVD player or streaming box.
Every damn second. Disconnect your TV from the internet and use a set top box or stick with some degree of privacy you can control. Even if you’re not worried about the privacy angle, it’s just a waste of bandwidth. And even if you’re not that concerned with the bandwidth, per se, it’s just obnoxious. It should bother you on an aesthetic sense alone to have a TV set needlessly phoning home constantly to send analytics that don’t help you at all.