Sunday February 12, 2017

Vizio Fined $2.2 Million for Spying on Customers Using Smart TVs

An older story, but I’ll get it out of the way since it is still resonating with some folks. Some months ago, Vizio was caught secretly mining data using a smart TV function that was advertised to do something else entirely, and the FTC has now put down the hammer on the budget-display company. Those of you who are eagle-eyed will notice discrepancies between the actual payout numbers suggestedآ—but in any case, Vizio looks to lose at least a million bucks over this. Not that I needed this case to convince me to turn off all of those gimmicky web functionsآ…

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آ…this week the FTC announced that it had struck a $1.2 million settlement with discount TV vendor Vizio. According to the full FTC complaint (pdf), Vizio began using the company's smart televisions to track user behavior in 2014, without informing customers that this was happening. The FTC notes that Vizio for years heavily advertised a "Smart Interactivity" feature that "enables program offers and suggestions." But the complaint notes this feature never provided customers with a single suggestion. But it did provide Vizio with a wonderful new way to collect and store a huge variety of consumer data under the pretense of adding consumer functionality. MAC addresses, IP addresses, nearby WiFi network names, metadata were all hoovered up and stored. And when the FTC says viewing data, it means that Vizio used pixel analysis to compile personal data on every program and device connected to the Vizio set.