That smart TV you invited into your living room may be taking down everything you watch and telling other folks about it, without informing you or asking your OK, a federal agency warns.
One of the largest sellers of “smart” or Internet-connected TVs, Vizio Inc., has agreed to stop spying on the viewing habits of users and sharing it with partners without the knowledge and permission of consumers, federal officials announced Monday.
Software on its TVs allowed Irvine, Cal.-based Vizio to collect viewing data on 11 million consumer TVs, the Federal Trade Commission said. The data on what people watched, second to second, was packaged with other demographic information relating to sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value, according to federal officials.
In a statement, the company said it was “pleased” to reach a resolution.
“Going forward, this resolution sets a new standard for best industry privacy practices for the collection and analysis of data collected from today’s internet-connected televisions and other home devices,” said Jerry Huang, Vizio general counsel.
He said the program “never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information, and the Commission did not allege or contend otherwise. Instead, as the Complaint notes, the practices challenged by the government related only to the use of viewing data in the ‘aggregate’ to create summary reports measuring viewing audiences or behaviors.”
He continued, “Today, the FTC has made clear that all smart TV makers should get people’s consent before collecting and sharing television viewing information and Vizio now is leading the way.”
A federal court order requires the company to “prominently disclose and obtain affirmative express consent for its data collection and sharing practices, and prohibits misrepresentations about the privacy, security, or confidentiality of consumer information they collect,” an FTC statement said. “It also requires the company to delete data collected before March 1, 2016, and to implement a comprehensive data privacy program and biennial assessments of that program.”
Vizio agreed to pay $2.2 million as part of the settlement.