Smart TVs

What you need to know:

Smart TVs have become ubiquitous in homes as customers increasingly utilize video streaming services in favor of traditional network TV. They have also increasingly become more affordable as manufacturers pursue new revenue streams such as targeted advertising and selling user data to subsidize cost of the device.

These devices collect a variety of data including what apps you have, the device serial number, location (from IP address) and utilizing a technology called Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) it also recognizes everything you’re watching on the device. ACR works by capturing a snapshot or fingerprint of what’s on the screen periodically, which is then compared to a database of known content to identify the programming.

This data is shared with advertising companies and data brokers to develop an understanding of your interests and is then generally combined with other sources of data to enable targeted advertising whether on the TV itself or across the web.

Generally, when a Smart TV comes out of the box it’s automatically set up to collect this data or disclosure is buried in its terms and conditions where you’re are prompted to accept when the device is set up.

Beyond TV manufacturers directly tracking you, these devices can also be susceptible to breaches from hackers or government entities, which can utilize built in microphones and cameras to peak into your private life.

Learn More:

The trend towards Smart TVs and its resulting privacy concerns, and a Washington Post investigation into Smart TV tracking

How Automatic Content Recognition works

The FBI warning that Smart TVs are tracking you and can be susceptible to hacking

Vizio being charged with improperly tracking users

How the CIA has used Samsung Smart TVs as listening devices

Samsung also collect data from voice commands

What to do:

See this guide on how to adjust settings on Smart TVs to minimize data collection.

You can also physically cover up the camera on your smart TV with tape.