How your TV is Evading your Privacy
Is your TV at home a smart TV? If it is, your TV is probably watching you. In this article, we will discuss how your TV files your viewing patterns and silently earn from your behavior.
ACR: Linking you and advertisers
All smart TVs have a feature: automatic content recognition (ACR), which utilizes the few pixels of the content you are viewing and transmits that data back to a gigantic database. This data is used to filter advertisements targeted at you based on your preferences during your TV time or out of your TV time. You might be curious as to how these advertisements make their way into your smart TV and the other smart devices you own. As your smart TV is linked to your home router, it would have the same IP address, which acts as an identifier that can help companies pinpoint your household. The targeted advertisements will be aimed at all the devices within your home network. This means that you can easily find the same advertisement on the TV, on your smartphone and even on your parents’ smartphones.
This feature might sound terrifying since TV came before the Internet, and the masses remember watching TV as a purely unidirectional communication. However, now that your smart TV is also online, they work in the exact same way as when you are online with your smartphones or laptops. This includes being pursued and being fed with advertisements and content that are calculated to appeal to you.
The way your TV compiles your viewing data is done in the same way as the “recommended” content sections of sites such as YouTube or Facebook. As a consumer, who does not want to view more of what they like? Smart TV platforms that adopt ACR give you an enhanced, customizable viewing experience with the data they collect on your viewing patterns to help advertisers find you.
Greater emphasis on transparency when it comes to the gathering of data
Internet regulators have long been troubled with user content and transparency. In 2017, FTC sued the smart TV manufacturer Vizio, for gathering viewing data without the viewer’s permission, and Vizio had to compensate approximately two million. From here on, regulators have kept a sharp eye on smart TV producers. People have begun pressing companies to be more transparent with the type of data they will be gathering in the primary terms of service on the first installation of the TV. However, an unusually high percentage of 90% of Samba-enabled TV consumers agree to have their viewing information collected despite the commotion about it.
Worries about constant surveillance
Even now, the FBI is advising the masses to protect their smart TVs. Laws and regulations of this aspect do not see eye to eye with corporate merciless means. To summarise the implications of the security of TVs, phones and the myriad of other smart (IoT) devices prevalent today, a new Harvard University report describes the future as one that contains plentiful unprotected data, some of which is capable of solving issues posed by communication platforms that forbid the government from accessing data from these platforms. This means that the government will be agreeable with the common data mining business design that many tech firms adopt.
Some smart TVs, like laptops and smartphones, have microphones and cameras (though cameras are rare in the newer versions of TVs). With them, companies, and even hackers, have access to both an audio and visual view of your everyday life through your smart TVs, just like your other smart devices. Worried about what the hackers would do with what they see and hear? There is another party accessing this information and analyzing them. According to Wikileaks-released reports, it seems like not only is your TV accessible to hackers, it is also accessible to the CIA, where they supervise you through the mics or cameras even when the TV seems to be switched off.
How can I make my smart TV secure?
An estimated 114 million smart TVs were sold globally just in 2018. In the US, approximately 45% of homes own at least one smart TV. The proliferation of TVs can be explained by their tracking abilities that reduce prices. As smart TVs and other smart tools become more appealing, it is vital for every user to know how to restrict these invasive collections of data by these smart devices. We have listed some beginner tips that can help you make your smart TV more secure below.
- Be very mindful when you are assembling and installing your TV. Do not nonchalantly say yes to all the terms and conditions listed, so that you will be able to capture the option to opt-out of the data collection. You are fortunate if you are reading this before you set up your new smart TV because producers make it difficult to find the opt-out alternative once you have given authorization at the beginning. Every brand has its own unique way to alter this setting, so you will have to look up information for your own brand.
- You can easily choose not to put your smart TV online. For example, you can install your preferred streaming service on your laptop and enjoy it on TV by linking your laptop to the TV’s HDMI port. You would have restricted the degree of tracking, though it is still happening within the streaming service you are running on.
- If you want to keep your TV connected to the Internet, setting up a VPN may help. By securing your home router with a VPN, you would have encrypted and protected your connection in the network, protecting yourself from hackers.
Although our smart gadgets have gotten really intelligent, we can be “smarter” in terms of how we utilize them. When installing a new smart device in the future, be sure to factor in its capabilities and understand the steps you can take to guard your privacy. You can be in charge of what information you are comfortable sharing with others. One such way is by using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short. If you would like to find out more, you can take a look at This VPN comparison at vpnmash.com