Your Smart TV can pick up information from what you say and the activities that you perform on them.
From vacation plans to recommended TV shows, your TV may be listening.
Where are the cameras and microphones of Smart TVs hidden?
Modern Smart TVs now actually have cameras and microphones installed. Smart TV cameras and microphones are often placed at the edges above the screen of your TV. These two features are often placed nearby, as they are often paired together in video calls.
How Do I Locate the Cameras and Microphones on a Smart TV?
Cameras on Smart TVs are often found at the upper edges of the TV, on the bezels. A small circle for the lens usually denotes these cameras.
If the unit has thin bezels, these cameras are hidden within this location, and usually are popped out when needed.
Meanwhile, the location of the microphone is often denoted by a pinhole-sized opening, usually found near the camera, and for the most part in front of the screen.
Do note that the location of cameras and microphones on your Smart TV still vary according to the manufacturer.
Locating the Camera and Mic on Samsung TVs
Not all Samsung Smart TVs have cameras and microphones.
Should there be one, it would be found in the middle of the device.
Locating the Camera and Mic on LG TVs
LG Smart TVs, for the most part, do not have built-in cameras, but for the few that have, these are retractable types.
Keep the camera retracted to prevent it from recording you.
Locating Camera and Mic on Vizio TVs
Vizio does not have built-in cameras into its Smart TVs. The company sells a compatible webcam that may be used with the TV.
Locating Camera and Mic on Sony TVs
Sony TVs do not have built-in cameras and microphones in their Smart TVs.
If you are worried about how cameras and microphones are watching you, consider getting a Sony Smart TV.
How Do I Turn off the Camera and Microphone of a Smart TV?
All Smart TVs have a form of tracking function installed.
Some of the ways they track your activities are through the microphone and camera.
While all Smart TVs are different, they have similar methods for turning off the tracking function.
To turn off this function:
- Go to the Settings menu and look for the Privacy Options
- Look for advertising, and select “Limit Ad Tracking” or anything similar
- Go to the microphone and camera accessibility, and turn it off
Should I Uninstall Them Altogether?
It might be tempting to remove the camera and microphone together, but this may cause some problems later on.
For one, disabling them may void your manufacturer’s warranty. Also, you may remove something essential for your Smart TV to function.
You may also need these functions later on, so it would be good to have them still installed, so you won’t have to buy a third-party device.
Do all smart TVs have Cameras and Microphones Installed?
Not all of them, but if your Smart TV supports video chat, chances are it has a built-in camera and microphone or supports third-party web cameras at the very least.
Can I See When the Camera is Turned On?
While you can always deny permission of apps to access your Smart TV’s camera, the truth is, you may not be able to see if it is active.
Some cameras have an LED indicator, while others don’t.
If you don’t want your camera picking up your activities, you can simply tape over the lens, or unplug it if using an external camera.
Can I Check When the Microphone is Listening?
Like your Smart TV’s camera, you can also deny access to the microphone.
Again, it also comes with the caveat that you may not be able to disable it.
If you want to be sure, you can tape a small piece of foam on top of the pinhole of the microphone to muffle, if not silence, it from picking up your voice.
How Will that Affect the Warranty?
This will not affect your warranty at all. Since you are not opening and unwiring any component, your warranty will remain valid.
Unless you permanently disable the hardware, you have nothing to worry about claims later on.
Do Smart TVs Spy on You?
Software developers can suggest content or push ads based on the content you watch.
Using automatic content recognition (ACR), TVs can send information on the show you watch, and your age information. This is then used to push other content to your suggested videos for you to watch.
For example, if you watched Daredevil on Netflix, a few days later, your Netflix may suggest that you watch The Flash? The results of data collection are just the tip of the iceberg.
ACR can even detect videos you watch through devices connected to the TV, such as Blu-ray players, which is already outside the Smart TV operating system.
Samsung also continuously reminds consumers that its microphones built into its Smart TVs continuously picks up audio.
In its privacy statement, the Korean electronics brand said:
“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.”
This means that Samsung does not give consumers much option to activate voice commands as needed.
It makes consumers of their Smart TVs more vulnerable to privacy violations by any interception of the data from the TV’s voice software.
Can People Hack a Smart TV to Spy on You?
It said that hackers could control your Smart TV, if left unsecured. Some of the things hackers can do include overriding your remote control and play with the volume or change the channel.
Playing with the channel and volume level is only the basic thing hackers can do. Here are other things they can do.
Considering the amount of information you have on your Smart TV, such as login credentials for different accounts, and payment details for automatic debit, hackers can have a field day with all the information they can mine from your accounts.
They can take your credit card information and use it to buy things online. While SMS verifications have become a standard to avoid identity theft, the fact that hackers can easily pluck out your bank information from your streaming subscriptions still makes you vulnerable.
What can even be worse is if hackers knew you personally, they would try to activate the cameras and microphones of your Smart TV, despite turning them off, and spy on you. This exposes your household to high-security risks.
If your child were alone and watching a program on your Smart TV, hackers might be able to pick up that you are not at home, and may take advantage of your absence in your house. They may feed inappropriate content, or worse, target your home for criminal activity.
Can a Virtual Private Network (VPN) Protect My Smart TV?
Using a VPN with your Smart TV brings benefits to your viewing and security.
A VPN disguises your IP address with an IP address from a location you choose through the app. This means anyone snooping on you will see you in another location, instead of your actual place.
By “relocating,” you can confuse anyone who plans to use your information since they will see what the VPN feeds them.
A VPN also unlocks programs or apps that may not be allowed in your current region or country.
Should you decide to avail of a VPN, do not download any VPN directly, but rather get it through the app store of your Smart TV. This is to ensure compatibility with your device.
Are Streaming Media Sticks, like Roku, safer than Smart TVs?
Yes, but only up to a certain point.
While both connect to the Internet and are prone to possible breaches in data privacy through ACR, which makes these TV add-ons safer than Smart TVs is its lack of connectivity.
At the most, they will only have voice command, which is activated through the remote control, but like their Smart TV counterparts, these can be muted in the settings, as well as taped over if needed.
But the safer features of streaming media players is only possible if you plug it into a non-Smart TV with HDMI. The more-secured nature of these media players is negated when used in conjunction with a Smart TV.
How Hard is it to Hack a Smart TV?
The difficulty of hacking a Smart TV depends on the level of security you will put in place for your system.
For one, if you want to avoid getting hacked, you should not connect your Smart TV to the Internet, but that defeats the purpose of buying a Smart TV.
Should you want to savor the benefits of a Smart TV, consider these practices:
1. Set Strong Passwords and Use Encryption
Stay away from the usual passwords named after your pet or where you met your spouse.
You would want to use an alphanumeric password when available, and use special character if permitted.
This also covers your Wi-Fi password.
2. Be Very Restrictive When Setting Up Your Smart TV
Just because an app says it needs access to your camera or microphone to work, it does not mean you have to permit it.
Choose the most restricted option when setting your Smart TV. Apps on your Smart TV do not need to automatically have access to your camera or microphone when installed.
You can choose to grant permission when you use the app, then deny it after.
You should also read up on the apps you plan to install before proceeding.
3. Go for a Wired Connection, When Possible
Wi-Fi is more vulnerable compared to an Ethernet or LAN connection.
Hackers would need to physically access your router if they want to spy on you through your Smart TV. A wired connection is also more stable than a Wi-Fi connection.
Also, disconnect from the Internet when using the features of the TV that don’t require you to be online. Watching movies on your Blu-ray player does not need you online.
It would be prudent to disconnect to prevent unnecessary snooping.
4. Keep Your Smart TVs Firmware Updated
Like other computing devices such as smartphones and computers, Smart TVs also need to be updated with the latest software.
Often, these updates include security updates, and bug fixes, which should make your Smart TV less vulnerable to cyber attacks.
5. Install Only Trusted Apps on Your Smart TV
This also includes apps found on your Smart TVs app store.
Make it a habit to read about the apps you want to install, including user reviews.
Check for security issues and glitches, and what other users think about it.
6. Be Careful With the USB Devices You Plug Into your Smart TV
Flash drives and other devices that can be plugged into the USB port of your Smart TV can also be a bearer of content that may cause harm to your device.
This includes devices with tampered or modified firmware designed to open up other features unlisted.
Like your apps, you need to read up on possible security issues that may affect your Smart TV from devices that were opened for modification.
Consider limiting also the devices that pair with your Smart TV. You may not know what is lurking in your Smartphone or Tablet, which may cause harm when connected to your TV. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Cover the camera and turn-off microphone. Grant access only when you intend to use the hardware. While you can set these devices to be off through your settings, this may not be enough.
Put a piece of tape that’s not transparent over the lens of the camera on your Smart TV. If your camera can be retracted, keep it in as well.
For the microphone, you can also cover the pinhole located near the camera of the TV. Do the same if the remote control has a built-in microphone for voice command.
7. Use Anti-Virus Software
If your Smart TV comes preinstalled with anti-virus software, make it a point to run it to detect and flush-out suspicious files or apps on your Smart TV.
These suspicious contents may cause cyber-attacks through your TV.
If it does not come with anti-virus, consider installing one meant for Smart TVs.
8. Don’t connect your social media accounts or email to the Smart TV
As much as possible, you need to cut the login credentials that your Smart TV will contain.
The more you have accounts logged in, the more you put yourself at risk.
Should you need to login, treat your Smart TV as if it were a public computer. Log out after use, especially if you are not the only one who uses the TV.
You may not know it, but someone may unwillingly activate something, which may cause your account to be compromised.
It would also be good to activate Two-Factor Authentication for all applicable apps. This will prevent unauthorized access to the accounts you access on your TV. Consider the second authentication to be sent through your phone.
9. Moving Forward
The security risks in Smart TV are grave, yet people are still attracted to them.
And yet, despite the risks, manufacturers still make include these features, because consumers are looking for them.
They want the ability to stream from the Internet with a large screen, even if it means putting yourself out in the open for possible hacking. It sounds crazy, but it’s the price to pay for a viewing experience like no other.
Also, Smart TVs have become cheaper to manufacture now, and makes them more affordable. As a Vizio executive said, the cost of producing a Smart TV now is cheaper than making a traditional TV. This is because manufacturers can sell the data collected from the TV, albeit a violation of data privacy.
Again despite the risks, consumers will lean towards the cheaper options, which unfortunately comes with security breaches.
Are Upgraded features like Cameras and Microphones Worth it?
Well, if you can manage all the risks, and put up strong layers of protection on your data and Smart TV, then, by all means, consider getting one.
If you can’t handle the disadvantages, then maybe a Smart TV without these features may be better for you. In the event, you decide to live with these drawbacks, buckle up, and raise the shields of your Internet.
Since consumers can’t expect manufacturers to put up strong protocols anytime soon, the only thing left to do now is to be extra careful with the data shared when the Smart TV is online.