BEWARE: Vizio TV's Caught 'Spying' On Owners And Selling User Data, Ordered To Pay $2.2 M In Fines [Video]

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

Today's smart televisions are all equipped with PC-like features that incorporate internet connectivity. Alongside apps, some models even have microphones and cameras. Recently, Vizio has been caught spying on viewers, collected data without consent, and allegedly sold the data to advertisers and marketers.

How did Vizio do it?

According to Yahoo Tech, Vizio used a process called automated content recognition (ACR) to collect data from its smart TV's. The collected data is then transmitted back to the company's home base for sales to third parties.

On February 6, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that the court ordered Vizio to prominently disclose and obtain express consent for its data collection and sharing practices. To put it plainly, Vizio is now prohibited from tracking its customers viewing habits without explicit permission.

For the violation, Vizio had to pay $2.2 million to settle charges for having monitored the viewing habits of an unsuspecting 11 million TV's without the consent of its owners over the course of two years, reported The Verge. According to the FTC, Vizio has been collecting what was being watched on a second-by-second basis, whether cable, playing Blu-ray, or streaming a movie. This is on top of other personal data they have collected.

What did Vizio do with the data?

According to the report, the data is paired with demographic details on the users. Aside from viewing habit data, other pertinent information gathered were sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, home ownership, and home value. The collected information is then sold to analytics and ad companies that tailor-fit advertisements targeted back at the users.

What is scary is that Vizio did not just collect information on national viewing trends, Vizio got personal. The only saving grace to this was that the collected data was not linked to specific persons.

How to stop Vizio from tracking

The best way is to turn off tracking which is on by default. Go into Menu -> System-> Reset & Admin. Locate "Smart Interactivity" on the screen. Users can turn that feature off from there, or go one level deeper to "Viewing Data," and turn that off as well.

It would be smart to do this with all internet capable TV's and IoT devices. Just check User's Manuals of these devices upon installation of such devices.

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