Another day, another way for shady companies to spy on you. US Senators believe that the newest way for nefarious agents to snoop is through your Internet-enabled Smart TV. So is your Smart TV spying on you? The answer is yes, and you should be concerned.
US Senators Are Concerned About Smart TV Spying
Two Democratic US senators have asked the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, to investigate Internet-enabled Smart TVs. Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal wrote a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons addressing their concerns:
“Many Internet-connected Smart TVs are equipped with sophisticated technologies that can track the content users are watching and then use that information to tailor and deliver targeted advertisements to consumers.”
“Regrettably, Smart TV users may not be aware of the extent to which their televisions are collecting sensitive information about their viewing habits.”
Markey and Blumenthal are asking the FTC to “launch an investigation into the privacy policies and practices of Smart TV manufacturers.”
While there are laws preventing cable and satellite TV companies from harvesting customer data, these protections do not cover companies using Internet connectivity. Essentially, Federal Law does not account for privacy problems and concerns raised by Internet-enabled Smart TVs.
This is not the first time that this issue has been brought to the public eye.
VIZIO Ordered To Pay $2.2 Million To FTC And State Of New Jersey
The Senators’ letter also mentions the FTC’s 2017 settlement with VIZIO.
Last year, VIZIO agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges by the FTC and the state of New Jersey. VIZIO, one of the largest Smart TV manufacturers, installed software on its TVs to collect viewing data on over 11 million consumers.
Data included second-by-second information displayed on the Smart TV. This includes video from cable boxes, broadband, DVDs, and even streaming devices. Furthermore, VIZIO attached specific private data such as sex, age, income, marital status, education value, and household value to VIZIO viewing data.
Data was collected without the consumer’s knowledge and consent and was then sold to third parties. These third parties used this data to create target advertising across all of the consumers’ devices.
How Much Information Is Samba TV Collecting?
The Senators further their concerns by referring to Samba TV, an app designed to find and curate TV shows according to your viewing habits.
Recent reports suggest that Samba TV, one of the largest companies tracking smart TV users’ viewing behavior, offers consumers the opportunity to enable their tracking service, but does not provide sufficient information about its privacy practices to ensure users can make truly informed decisions. For example, when prompting consumers to opt into their ‘Interactive TV’ service, Samba TV denotes that the service allows users to obtain ‘exclusive content and special offers,’ but does not clearly convey how much sensitive information about a user will be collected or whether the data will be used for targeted advertisements across different devices.
Samba TV told The New York Times that they “will work with any member of Congress on this issue” and that they have already revised and clarified their opt-in policies.
How To Prevent Smart TV Spying
The best way to protect and encrypt your online data is through a Virtual Private Network. A VPN service protects your data by routing it through a secure and remote server. Unfortunately, Smart TVs do not natively support VPNs.
Luckily, FlashRouters has a solution. FlashRouters come pre-installed with open-source, community security vetted DD-WRT firmware that enables a VPN connection through your wireless router. This allows for any connected device to be protected under the VPN service.
Furthermore, a FlashRouter enables your Smart TV to connect to its VPN network, preventing shady companies from harvesting and selling your personal data.
Each FlashRouter also comes included with our VPN Privacy App, allowing for easy device management if you ever feel the need to use your Smart TV without a VPN.
Check out some of our best FlashRouters of 2018 to start protecting your data today!
Have any questions or concerns? Contact our support team for more information!