Vizio is going to have to be a whole lot sneakier than they were if they want to track Smart TV usage.
According to a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General, Vizio has captured information on 11 million consumer TVs since February 2014 about what viewers were watching on cable, streaming services and over-the-air broadcasts without TV owners’ knowledge or consent. This week, a $2.2 million settlement was announced.
Their sneaky tactics
The Verge is reporting that Vizio had their tracking features turned on by default, rather than having an opt-in option like most of their competitors. Vizio tracking what people watch is not really surprising. Instead, it’s a surprise that they got caught, and had to pay a good chunk of cash to settle the case.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Settlement details suggest Vizio’s practices may have been more invasive than their competitors.” quote=”Details about the Vizio settlement do suggest that their practices may have been a bit more invasive than some competitors appear to be.”]
In 2015, Vizio got attention for the sketchy practice of bundling users IP address with their viewing habits so advertisers could send ads to any other device on a network (like their phone or tablet). This was confirmed as new details of Vizio’s practices emerged, with the FTC revealing that Vizio matched data on what was being watched with IP addresses, and sold it to businesses and organizations with a need for audience measurement along with third party demographic data.
Did you opt-in?
Most companies that make smart TVs do track data in some capacity, usually with an opt-in option, although that opting in process is sometimes hidden and selected unintentionally during TV set-up. Samsung has an opt-in tracking service called SyncPlus for example that many users opt-in to as they install their new TVs. The option to opt-out is then hidden inside the “Terms & Policy” section.
For smart TV users who do not want their information shared or sold, the best recommendation is to find how to ensure you are opted-out of data tracking.
The Wirecutter published an in-depth look at how to do this in 2015, and most newer models require similar steps to be followed.
This certainly isn’t the last we’ll hear about smart technology tracking users and selling their data. You may not realize it, but interactions with most internet-connected devices are being tracked in one way or another.
Vizio will pay $1.5 million to the FTC and $700,000 to the New Jersey Division of Consumer to settle this case, but chances are the practices won’t end. They’ll just get smarter.