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Smart TVs & Data Collection (Read This Before Buying One!)

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If you think you have escaped advertising by switching to a smart TV, then you’re mistaken.

Advertising on the Internet is more aggressive as it’s cheaper, and advertisers can easily target you thanks to data gathered through your watching and search history.

Here are some things you need to know about smart TVs and data collection:

Do Smart TVs Track You?

Smart TVs have the potential to track a lot of the things you do.

When you connect your smart TV to the Internet, you potentially are your activities to the Internet, including the manufacturer of your TV.

However, keep in mind that the use of your data collection other than for advertising purposes is almost always illegal, so it is very unlikely that a manufacturer is listening in and selling your data.

Hackers are also very rare, so it isn’t a huge concern for many users when using a Smart TV.

That being said, a lack of privacy on your smart TV is intensified if you have a smart TV with built-in cameras and microphones, giving data trackers more ways to know more about you.

If you are concerned, check out the rest of our article below for more information:

What Data do Smart TVs Gather About You?

Using a system called Automatic Content Recognition, smart TVs will gather data covering your viewing habits, which shows and ads you watch, what topics you often search, and other account credentials linked to your account.

Manufacturers, or even hackers, also have the ability to use cameras and microphones to collect information from you. These sensory devices can gather other sensitive data also, even if you don’t use these features.

Samsung has this clause in their privacy statement, which raised eyebrows over smart TV privacy: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

It is not always a guarantee that your Smart TV is listening to you, but if you are concerned, consider turning off your devices when not in use.

Do Smart TVs Listen to Your Conversations?

Technology experts have raised this concern, as there is no clear assurance that microphones on your smart TV or voice command remote remain off when not in use.

Some people have noted how an advertisement can pop up after you had been discussing that specific product with friends or family over dinner, such as when you own an Alexa, a Google Home, or a Smart TV.

Data privacy advocates have associated this unusual push of ads with the microphones on your devices. Some believe that it is not a case of coincidence, and insist this is the doing of smartphones and TVs.

However, this claim has yet to be proven, even as Samsung released a disclaimer on its voice recognition technology.

To know more about how smart TVs can listen to your conversations, please check out our article: Where Are The Cameras & Mics Of Smart TVs Hidden? (Busted!)

How Do I Know What Data the TV is Collecting?

At face value, you can check what specific data your smart TV collects in the data privacy notice of the manufacturer.

Also, when you set up your smart TV, you will be asked to read the End-Users Licensing Agreement (EULA), like your smartphone or computer when you first set it up for use.

You will be asked to agree to continue the setup, and if you disagree, you won’t be able to use the device.

What Types of Companies Might get my Data?

There are three companies interested in gathering data from you:

1. App Developers:

Should you encounter any problems with the app you are using, they want to know what happened and the details surrounding it.

Data they collect helps them develop updates, improve user experience, and even introduce new features later on.

In some cases like Netflix, this helps the developer suggest content for you to watch.

2. Smart TV Manufacturers:

Like app developers, the manufacturers need to know of any issues you may have when using their product.

They need to know what works and what does not on their TVs. This helps them develop firmware updates to your smart TV so that you can have a superb user-experience.

Also, the data they collect helps them put the costs of manufacturing down.

3. Digital Advertising Companies:

They are usually in connivance with TV manufacturers, and sometimes with app developers.

This is a revenue opportunity, with Internet advertising more booming than ever.

By collecting your data, digital advertisers can tailor-fit advertisements suited to your viewing habits and behavior.

Using your information, they can send you advertisements that are appropriate for your location, age, and gender.

What’s the Best Smart TV for Privacy?

The best smart TV you can get now if you are concerned with privacy is Sony.

Sony lets you opt-out of the data collection policy while giving you a limited version of the smart TV. Should you want the full version, you need to agree to their policy.

Another option you can consider is getting an Apple TV digital streaming box.

Apple TV is known for its good security, as it has consistently pushed for it in the past years.

This is ideal if you have a nice smart TV that you want to use for its crisp image and sound, but don’t want to risk too much when it comes to privacy.

Also, this is a good alternative for those who want to consider smart TVs but don’t want to buy one yet. Plug it into the HDMI port of your existing TV, and you’re all set.

Can You Opt-Out of Data Collection on Your Smart TV?

To turn off data collection on your Samsung smart TV, go to settings and support.

  1. Look for the Terms and Policies, where you should be able to disable Viewing Information Services, Internet-based Advertising, and Voice Recognition Services, which also disables voice commands.

On older Samsung TVs, you can disable tracking by going to the Smart Hub menu and look for Support under Settings.

  1. Go to Terms and Policy, and turn off SyncPlus and Marketing.
  2. You can also turn off Voice Recognition as well here.

For LG Smart TV users, you will have to turn off LivePlus.

  1. Go to settings and select All Settings. Go to General, then look for LivePlus and turn it off.
  2. To turn off advertising, go to About This TV in the General menu. Look for the User Agreements and turn off Personalized Advertising.

For your Vizio smart TV, go to System and look for Reset and Admin.

  1. If you are using a SmartCast system, look for Data and turn it off.
  2. On TVs that use the Vizio Internet Apps, look for Smart Interactivity instead, and then turn it off.

For Sony smart TVs, you can choose not to accept the Bravia policy, which would result in some features not being enabled.

  1. But if you decide to agree to unlock some features, here’s what you can do to disable tracking.
  2. Disable the Samba App, which appears after you agree to the Bravia policy.
  3. Disable Ad Personalization by going to the Settings and look for Ads. Turn off ad personalization.

After that, move next to disable Google Chromecast Data Collection, as Sony smart TVs use Chromecast.

  1. Open Google Home on your phone and look for your TV on the list.
  2. Go to its settings and disable the sending of Chromecast usage data and crash reports.
  3. The last step would be to disable Google Assistant, which handles voice commands on Sony smart TVs.
  4. To do this, you need to press and hold the Google Assistant button on your remote.
  5. Then go to the settings menu and disable Google Assistant.

Note that disabling Google Assistant also disable voice command features of your Sony smart TV.

Also, you may want to disable your built-in camera and microphone on your smart TV when you are not using them. This will reduce the chances of data collectors to retrieve more information about you.

If your smart TV has a detachable camera like Portal, keep it unplugged when not in use.

Is it Safer to use a Non-Smart TV?

Since non-smart TVs are not connected to the Internet, there is no chance that your data is leaked to the companies that collect them.

So if you are not keen on sharing data with others, stick to a non-smart TV.

However, many consumers do like the ease of which they can use a Smart TV as opposed to an older one.

The choice, ultimately, is yours to make.

Sources:

How to Turn Off Smart TV Snooping Features

Editorial: Why is privacy-minded Apple putting its new TV app on smart TVs notorious for spying on users?

Is Your Smart TV Listening To You? Here Is How To Stop It

Samsung Local Privacy Policy–SmartTV Supplement

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