For decades, only you knew the television programs you watched from your living room. That’s starting to change. The FTC recently explored this at its Smart TV workshop. The data generated when you watch television can reveal a lot about you and your household. So, before a company pulls up a chair next to you and starts taking careful notes on everything you watch (and then shares it with its partners), it should ask if that’s O.K. with you. VIZIO wasn’t doing that, and the FTC stepped in.
Today, the FTC announced that VIZIO agreed to settle charges that it violated the law when it used its automated content recognition (“ACR”) software in more than 11 million internet-connected VIZIO televisions to determine what people watch – without their consent. 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. They also shared that information with other companies.
This settlement stops VIZIO’s unauthorized tracking, and makes clear that smart TV makers should get people’s consent before collecting and sharing television viewing information. From now on, VIZIO is required to prominently disclose their data collection and sharing practices and get permission from the TV owners. The company also has to delete most of the data it already collected and put in place a privacy program that also checks their partners’ privacy practices.
If you own a VIZIO TV, go to your TV’s settings menu and look for information about automated content recognition (“ACR”). For more information on privacy, identity and online security check out FTC’s advice at consumer.ftc.gov.