8 February, 2017
Shocking: Smart TV Manufacturer Vizio Spies On Customers Using Advanced Big Data Analytics
US TV manufacturer Vizio’s underhanded Big Data dealing may have just cost it $2.2 million but I think it is something we can unfortunately expect to see a lot more of.
The FTC this week announced that viewing data of individual households was monitored through a built-in spy device which used image recognition technology. Once every second, software in the Vizio TVs would read pixel data from a segment of the screen. This was sent home and compared against a database of film, television and advertising content to determine what was being watched.
The FTC has revealed that Vizio went further than this – matching data on what was being watched with IP addresses, and selling it, along with third party demographic data, to businesses and organizations with a need for audience measurement.
This week we heard that Vizio paid $2.2 million to settle the FTC complaint, agreed to stop collecting viewing data in this way, and to delete the data it had already collected from its servers. That might seem like a comparatively low figure, but this may be, as Vizio point out in their statement, because personally identifiable information wasn’t transmitted.
This isn’t the first time our smart home entertainment systems have been accused of spying on us. In 2013 LG admitted that voice data was still being captured and transmitted even if users had denied consent for this to happen. And in 2015 there was concern after it was found that Samsung TVs were also recording and sending home “living room chatter”.
Interestingly, and acknowledging that this is likely to be a problem which only becomes more frequent in the future, the FTC put out some suggestions for manufacturers of smart home equipment, to help them steer clear of causing this sort of trouble.