TV manufacturer Vizio has found itself in hot water after allegedly using its smart TVs to track the viewing habits of users.
While, depending on the sort of thing you’re watching, that could sound troubling enough, things get worse when you realise that viewers were never told their viewing was being monitored, or that collected data was being sold on to third parties.
Although Vizio has insisted that data sent to buyers could not be matched to individual users, the company has agreed to pay a $2.2 million (£1.78m) settlement.
The actions were raised by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US, that claims Vizio had been tracking user habits since February 2014, with more than 11 million televisions affected.
It’s alleged that the company’s smart TV platform was used to knowingly track what was on users’ screens before transmitting it to the company’s servers.
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“Vizio collected unique data from each household with a Vizio smart TV that included not only second-by-second viewing information, but also the household’s IP address, nearby access points, zip code, and other information,” the FTC stated.
“They also shared that information with other companies.”
It added: “This settlement stops Vizio’s unauthorised tracking, and makes clear that smart TV makers should get people’s consent before collecting and sharing television viewing information.”
Vizio primarily operates in the States and describes itself as “the maker of the top-selling UHD TVs and America’s number one sound bar company.”
Despite settling, according to the manufacturer, it “never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information, and the Commission did not allege or content otherwise.”
In a written statement, it added: “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 audience or behaviours.”
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