Thursday, February 9, 2017

Vizio Tracking TV Viewing

Lesley Fair:

Consumers have bought more than 11 million internet-connected Vizio televisions since 2010. But according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, consumers didn’t know that while they were watching their TVs, Vizio was watching them. The lawsuit challenges the company’s tracking practices and offers insights into how established consumer protection principles apply to smart technology.

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.

John Gruber:

The lack of respect for consumer privacy in this case is just appalling.

Nick Heer:

The FTC got involved and today announced that they would be fining Vizio the paltry sum of $2.2 million.

Update (2017-03-06): Josh Centers:

For a simpler solution, just don’t connect your TV to the Internet. If you want to use Netflix and other apps, get an Apple TV, which has the best privacy policy in the business[…]

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai (via John Gruber):

A company that sells “smart” teddy bears leaked 800,000 user account credentials—and then hackers locked it and held it for ransom.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

I've had two "Smart TV'" axioms:

1) When they first rolled out: Smart TV's are sold to dumb people.

2) Once they became semi-mandatory: You're dumb if you ever connect them to your LAN.

Obviously the Vizio tracking is an absurdly egregious violation of trust. But even without tracking, there've been plenty of Smart TV's sticking ads into weird places a couple months after you get the set home once the return window expires. One brand started injecting ads every time you adjusted the TV volume, to note one extreme example. But there have been plenty more of this trend.

And, of course, there's the question of why you'd ever want to use the Smart TV's features when far better (non-Apple) streaming devices are sold for bargain basement prices, letting you update them far ahead of your panel update cycle...

(Also, well worth noting, since none of Michael's pullquotes do so, the Vizio sets weren't just tracking what you watched via the Smart TV features. They were tracking what you watching via any input source.)

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