MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It seems your smart television is smarter than you might think! WREG uncovered a secret, privacy concern staring consumers right in the face.
Next time you plop down on the couch to watch television, just know, your TV is watching you too.
Jim Willcox, Senior Electronics Editor at Consumer Reports, started writing about what’s called Automated Content Recognition two years ago.
“When you’re connected to the internet, basically, they can see your IP address and because of that, they’re able to track what you’re doing. So they can see all the things that you’re viewing,” explained Willcox.
Think of it as the way your TV knows you like, for example, The Big Bang Theory, then makes similar recommendations.
As it turns out, your TV is constantly snooping on you to figure that out and you agreed to it, except you probably didn’t realize that either.
So, what happens to that information after it’s collected?
Willcox told WREG, “They sort of start to compile a sort of composite view of who you are as a consumer.”
According to Willcox, that information is eventually sold to marketers.
“They use it for advertising. It can either be used to send targeted advertising, something, you see all the time online, but I think it’s something you’ll start to see on TVs pretty soon.”
Seeing ads based on a user’s history, similar to pop ups online, might not seem like much of a privacy concern to consumers who are used to the practice online.
Willcox said the implications could be worse. For example, what if the broker storing your information gets hacked?
Plus, Wilcox wareds, it won’t stop at televisions.
“There’s something called cross-device tracking and they’ll not only be able to track what you’re doing on your TV and in your home, but they’ll tie that data into what you’re doing on other devices. So they’ll not only know what you’re watching, but if they track into your mobile device at the same time, they’ll know where you are.”
How to Turn It Off
If you don’t want your TV spying on you, there is a way disable content recognition.
It’s different for every manufacturer, but it’s usually under terms and policies, or settings.
WREG found it under Smart Hub Terms and Conditions on a newer model Samsung.
We selected Interest Based Advertisements and checked the disable box.
Vizio said the capability has been disabled on its TVs, but according to Consumer Reports, the feature is called Smart Interactivity.
For newer LG smart TV, the user agreements are under Settings, General, then About This TV.
Read more details from Willcox’ article below on how to turn off ACR on your TV, no matter which brand it is.
Willcox said it’s ultimately about awareness.
“We’re hoping that the industry does a better job of really explicitly letting people know in a very clear way what they’re doing when you sign that agree form.”
Willcox said they’d like to see shorter, easier to understand user agreements.
Also, it’s not just televisions that are spying on you. The same is true for voice activated devices such as Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and voice activated remote controls.