How your Smart TV is collecting your data

Heidi Finigan | 22 Jun 2019

If you’ve taken a look at the television retail market over the last 12 months, there’s little chance you’ve seen a non-smart TV on sale. In fact, a look at any of the leading online electronics websites both here in Australia and abroad (e.g. JB HiFi, Kogan) websites will show you that there are quite literally no ‘dumb’ TV options available when it comes to family-sized TVs for the living room.

Today, smart TVs make up more than 70% of the television market in the US and more than 73% in Australia.

This lack of traditional, non-smart TVs becomes somewhat troubling for those who are concerned about their privacy online. Since almost every television on the market now has a WiFi and Ethernet port, your TV is continually connected to the internet — and with little anti-virus and privacy software, you’re leaving everything open to hackers, even family photos.

Automatic Content Recognition

A good portion of Aussies don’t understand that their smart TVs aren’t merely a display with an internet connection for Netflix, but also a data funnel that’s siphoning tonnes of data on their streaming habits, what they use the TV for as well as how they utilise application marketplaces.

Smart TVs use a service titled Automatic Content Recognition, and the ‘feature’ is used primarily by all television manufacturers to make your experience using their TV model better. The ACR feature collects user data, sells it to advertisers, and helps in recommending shows to watch and apps to download.

Sensitive Data Accumulation

For the privacy-oriented, this next piece will have you concerned. The TVs are using both their microphone-equipped remotes and corresponding smartphone TV apps to record family conversations in user’s homes. These recordings are stored either on-TV or in the cloud for advertisers – or anyone else – to access whenever they please.

To put the data collection into perspective, companies like Vizo were caught tracking the TV habits of 11 million people and fined US$2.2 million.

All of this collected data makes its way to advertisers, and though that might not be a problem for many, there’s also a good chance that the security-featureless smart TVs are easily hackable by cybercriminals. Any user data collected and any files you add to your TV are open to being stolen by malicious software, malware, or hackers.

Smart TV VPN Apps

It’s not only VPNCompass who are suggesting that you take your smart TV privacy seriously, but Samsung itself also recommended that users of their smart TVs make an anti-virus scan at least “every few weeks.”

As of 2018, all major VPN providers have rolled out smart TV editions of their award-winning VPNs, and we highly suggest you make use of them. Leading vpn service providers such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN and CyberGhost all have vpn apps that can be installed on your smart TV in a few clicks and will lock all of your data behind an encrypted connection.

To keep things simple,using a VPN in conjunction with their smart TVs to browse app stores, streaming platforms, and play games are far safer from outside threats and will protect your online privacy. A VPN offers military-grade encryption for communication, making it almost impossible for hackers to intercept your data on its way to advertisers.


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