‘Smart’ TVs Track Everything You Watch

Geoffrey Fowler, writing for The Washington Post back in September 2019:

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.

Thursday, 18 February 2021