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Vizio Smart TVs Tracked Its Users Secretly, Sold Customer Data Afterwards

( [email protected] ) Feb 08, 2017 05:09 PM EST
The FTC has brought us word on what actions customers affected by Vizio's unscrupulous method of data collection are able to take.
Vizio has been collecting data of its customers via its Smart TVs secretly, selling them off afterwards. Vizio

If you are a Vizio smart TV owner, you should be fuming mad by now. What you thought was a very affordable method of enjoying the benefits of a smart TV without having to fork out a premium price that is associated with other more established brands might have backfired, as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claims that Vizio has actually used the massive numbers of smart TVs that they have sold to spy on millions of consumers without prior permission. To rub salt into the wound, Vizio also sold that information through its spying activities to others, making more money on the side. Having been caught, Vizio would now have to fork out $2.2 million in fines as they profited off customers’ private information.

What are some of the reactions from Vizio customers who would certainly avoid Vizio like the plague from now on, save for the real die-hard fans of the brand and those who do not have the economic firepower to settle for a more honest company? Justin Linabury shared, “It’s shocking to know they know what you're doing, and what you're watching. It’s kind of a little creepy, to be honest.” Katherine Frontiero chipped in, “It's just crazy because I have a Vizio.” while Ashlee Rulison exclaimed her fears, “It’s very scary.” Ana Linabury added her two cents’ worth, “First, they're spying on you with the laptops and cameras. Now you can't even come home and sit and watch TV. That is a real big concern.”

Basically, each time you decide to change the channel on the Vizio smart TV, manufacturers are able to keep track of your viewing habits. Of course, it would be interesting to see the data on how many people actually perform channel surfing, which ought to be a sizeable number when you think about it -- or is that just a perception which is based on myth? According to the FTC, Vizio has taken things too far by spying on their customers. This is done through the installation of software on approximately 11 million internet-connected TVs which were then used to collect data. That alone is not an illegal act, but what made it despicable is the fact that Vizio went about doing so without obtaining prior permission from its customers.

Just so that Vizio owners know, the FTC claimed that Vizio performed its spying operations under the "Smart Interactivity" program all the way back since February 2014. It then connected available personal information such as one’s age, gender, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and home values, before selling it as a package to other companies to be used in targeted advertising campaigns.

Vizio claims that they had never made use of names or contact information of its customers, but they did not squeal at the $2.2 million fine, followed by the action of deleting all data collected prior to March 2016. Because of this, all smart TV manufacturers from now on would need to obtain consent of its users prior to the collection and sharing of TV viewing information, with Vizio being the market leader. You can read the court order to Vizio here, and file a complaint here if you are one of the affected people.

While you do not have the budget to get a new TV that does not carry the Vizio brand, here are some tips that can help you with your Vizio TV by checking out the TV Settings menu in order to turn off the Automated Content Recogntion. Press the MENU button on your TV's remote or open HDTV Settings app, choose System, choose Reset & Admin, highlight Smart Interactivity and press the RIGHT arrow to change the setting to Off.

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