Your TV Might be Binge Watching You!

By on February 7th, 2017 in Blog Posts, Privacy & Security

VIZIO is reportedly paying fines for using users TVs to track their viewing patterns in significant detail as well as associating this surveillance with  IP address data including age, sex, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and home values.

Presumably this might have been avoided if VIZIO had presented the users with a “privacy statement” or “terms of use” when they installed their TV. But failure to obtain the appearance of consent put them in this situation.

It has been clear that all “free” media (and many paid channels), for TV, cable, radio, Internet streaming, etc., all want to track this information. On one hand they can use it to provide “a better user experience” (show you the ads/suggested programs that match your demographics) … and of course the flip side is also true. Selling your data to third parties (a.k.a., “trusted business partners”)  so they can be more effective at interacting with you is part of the game.

Now let’s step it up a notch. Your TV (or remote control) may use voice recognition, often using the “mother ship” resources for AI analysis of what you have requested. That is, your voice is sent back to servers that interpret and respond. This leads to another level of monitoring … some of your characteristics might be inferred from your voice, and others from background sounds or voices, and even more information if the recording device just happens to track you all the time. “Siri are you listening in again?” — and then add a camera … now the fun can really start.

Can we trust corporations to protect our privacy?