Vizios Aren't the Only TVs That Are Tracking You
With news of Vizio sharing its customers’ viewing information and personal data without permission, a natural next question is: what do other companies do?
The Wirecutter, a product-review site now owned by The New York Times, looked at this issue in December 2015. It found that numerous other TV and entertainment-device companies sell products that monitor your viewing habits, but many of them require you to opt in, while others make it difficult to opt out.
Here is a summary of the site’s findings and my ratings of how well these companies respect your privacy, based on three factors: clear disclosure, what they collect and do with the information, and the ability to opt out:
LG asks you to opt in to let it collect the the programs that you watch. If you give permission, it will collect the information and your IP address, and share it with others. (The IP address is a unique series of numbers that identifies the connected TV to the Internet.) But when you do go through the setup, the box that provides permission is already checked and you need to uncheck it.
Samsung also collects the shows you watch, plus your IP address, and uses that information for advertising and “other” purposes. During the setup, it provides an “agree to all” before you read the agreement, which includes permission for sharing your data.
Sony collects each TV's identification number, but doesn’t say if it collects viewing information. It uses the data for personalized recommendations, advertising, and for product improvement. It also shares your data with Gracenote to provide program listings and recommendations. You need to opt in to give the company permission.
Sharp says it collects your IP address, usage patterns, data, and other activities, and uses this information for personalization and to deliver content. It doesn’t indicate whether it uses the data for personalized advertising or other tracking, nor whom it shares it with. Sharp has no opt-out policy and says that to prevent the sharing you need to turn off its connected service.
Roku collects the program information you watch and captures your IP address and your WiFi login. Roku says it uses that data for a variety of things, including personalizing content and advertising. Roku does not say whom it shares the information with. It has no way to opt out, collects more information than most, including information from “other connected devices,” apparently on your home network.
Apple TV: Apple states that it may collect some logging data that’s used to diagnose and identify problems with the device and service, but it doesn’t indicate whom they share this limited data with. The company does not collect personal information or your IP, and you also need to opt in for this to occur.