Consumer Reports: You TV can spy on you

Consumer Reports: Safety alert – TV tip-overs

It’s likely you don’t think you’ve invited a spy into your home when setting up a new TV. But new Samsung, LG, and Vizio smart TVs can record and share everything that’s viewed, whether it’s a broadcast or something streaming from the Internet. And some smart TVs can even track what DVD you’re watching.

The reason: Your viewing habits are valuable information for marketers who might want to use the information to recommend new shows, offer extra content on shows you’re already watching, or serve up customized advertising. The ads are primarily pop-ups like the ones you see on your computer.

You might not realize that you allowed that data collection when you agreed to the lengthy privacy policy during setup; with Samsung, it’s 47 screens of text. LG and Vizio also ask you to sign away your privacy in thousands of words in fine print.

When Consumer Reports emailed the manufacturers to ask how they are using the technology, representatives for Samsung and Vizio didn’t comment. An LG rep said that the company isn’t using any data to send personalized ads and has no plans to do so.
But Consumer Reports says that could change at any time.

You might think, well why don’t I just turn those marketing features off? It’s not always so easy. To stop tracking, you have to fight your way through menu settings. On an LG set, go to settings, then options, then Live plus, click off, then close. With Vizio, it’s a voyage through three menus to turn off the box Smart Interactivity. With Samsung, it’s a similar trip to find the box SyncPlus and Marketing to disable it.

Consumer Reports says that disabling the marketing feature may cause you to lose offers of extra scenes or commentary related to the shows you’re watching. But maybe that’s a small price to pay for knowing that what you’re watching remains private.