Many smart devices that we used in our daily lives are simply data collection machines. On that growing list of data collection machines, smart TVs are not exceptional. Smart TVs are reportedly loaded with data-hungry trackers, according to a study done by Princeton University.
In the current digital world, data is gold. Which has been part of the reason why TVs are becoming cheap – we are exchanging the value for personal data. But you can’t run away from this. While setting up your smart TV, you have to agree with the terms and conditions which I know TL; DR, so we accept and move on. While some people know that they are agreeing to their data being sold, many people have no clue about this.
In response to The Verge, Arvind Narayanan, associate professor of computer science at Princeton said in an email, “If you use a device such as Roku and Amazon Fire TV, there are numerous companies that can build up a fairly comprehensive picture of what you’re watching.”
“There’s very little oversight or awareness of their practices, including where that data is being sold.”
The research was done using a bot that installed thousands of channels on their Roku and Amazon Fire TVs automatically. The bot then mimicked human behavior by browsing and watching videos. However, when Ads showed up, it would track the type of data collected on the backend.
Some of the collected data included device type, serial number, city, and state, Wi-Fi network, and advertising ID. Some of the channels reportedly even sent unencrypted email addresses and video titles to the trackers.
The study found trackers on 69 percent of Roku channels and 89 percent of amazon fire channels. Some trackers are from known companies like Google, while many of them are from obscure companies. The research revealed that 97% of Roku channels had Google’s ad service DoubleClick.
In response to the matter, a Google spokesperson said smart TV app developers could opt for their ad services.
“..we’ve helped design industry guidelines for this that enable a privacy-safe experience for users. Depending on the user’s preferences, the developer may share data with Google that’s similar to data used for ads in mobile apps or on the web.”
Oh, and you can turn off targeted advertising on both Roku and Amazon Fire TV. But that only stops the device from tracking down your user ID. So, still the rest of the information collected could be used to profile you.