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Yes, your TV really is watching you... and reporting your habits to advertisers


Vizio Smart TV

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(NaturalNews) Once upon a time, watching TV was a one-way proposition – until Vizio came along...

Vizio is one of the most popular makers of "smart TVs," but buying one may not be a very smart thing to do. That's because Vizio Smart TVs are designed to track your viewing habits so that the company can sell the information to advertisers – along with your IP address – who in turn can use that information to gain access to your home network. And what's even worse is the fact that these tracking features are vulnerable to hackers.

If it all sounds rather Orwellian, you're not alone in thinking so.

From ProPublica.org:

Vizio's actions appear to go beyond what others are doing in the emerging interactive television industry. Vizio rivals Samsung and LG Electronics only track users' viewing habits if customers choose to turn the feature on. And unlike Vizio, they don't appear to provide the information in a form that allows advertisers to reach users on other devices.

Vizio's technology works by analyzing snippets of the shows you're watching, whether on traditional television or streaming Internet services such as Netflix. Vizio determines the date, time, channel of programs — as well as whether you watched them live or recorded. The viewing patterns are then connected your IP address - the Internet address that can be used to identify every device in a home, from your TV to a phone.

By working with data brokers such as Experian, Vizio can "connect your IP address with your gender, age, income, and interests" – even your name, it seems. This "enhanced data" can then be sold to advertisers who can then track every device connected to your home's IP address.

Vizio's "Smart Interactivity" tracking feature is already turned on by default when you purchase the TV – most people don't even know that the tracking feature exists, much less how to turn it off.

In a recent update of its privacy policy, Vizio stated that it now provides customer' viewing data to companies that "may combine this information with other information about devices associated with that IP address." There is no promise on the company's part to encrypt IP addresses before selling the data.

ProPublica.org reported:

Cable TV companies and video rental companies are prohibited by law from selling information about the viewing habits of their customers. However, Vizio says that those laws - the Video Privacy Protection Act and cable subscriber protections - don't apply to its business.

Class-action lawsuit filed against Vizio

There are those who beg to differ with Vizio's fast and loose interpretation of privacy laws, however...

From ConsumerReports.org:

The new lawsuit alleges that the data Vizio collects and shares on its customers' television viewing habits is insufficiently protected, allowing marketers to identify the customers by name. According to the complaint, this violates the Video Privacy Protection Act, a law dating to the 1980s that restricted video-rental companies from sharing information on what its customers were watching. The law has been applied in a number of cases in the digital era. The suit also alleges that consumers were misled about how their data would be used, in violation of several California statutes.

The class-action lawsuit was already in the works when it was revealed a few days ago that Avast security experts had found that Vizio Smart TVs are susceptible to hackers who can exploit vulnerabilities to launch "man-in-the-middle" eavesdropping attacks against the smart TV and third parties receiving the data.

But Vizio TVs are not the only "smart" devices that are vulnerable to hacking. Kaspersky Lab has also just reported on several other connected smart devices that can be hacked as well.

It's beginning to look as if many of these devices and systems are not so smart after all. The benefits of smart technology may very well be outweighed by their vulnerabilities.

Whether it's corporations, government agencies or hackers at the other end – do you really want your TV staring back at you?

Sources:

ProPublica.org

ConsumerReports.org

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