New studies find smart TVs are still sending sensitive data to third parties

midian182

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

As reported by the Financial Times, researchers from Northeastern University and Imperial College London found several smart TVs, including those from popular brands Samsung and LG, as well as streaming dongles Roku and FireTV were sending data such as location and IP address to Netflix and third-party advertisers. Other smart devices that include speakers and cameras were sending users' data to “dozens of third parties,” including Microsoft and Spotify.

A separate smart TV study by Princeton University found that some Roku and FireTV apps were sending specific user identifiers to third parties, including Google.

The Northeastern University study, which was conducted on 81 different devices in both the US and UK, found “notable cases of information exposure,” with Amazon, Google, Akami, and Microsoft the most frequently contacted companies. Researchers did point out, however, that this is partly because these companies provide cloud and networking services for smart devices.

The team said third parties receive data such as device information, user locations, and possibly even when people are interacting with their TV. “So they might know when you’re home and when you’re not,” said Professor David Choffnes, a computer scientist at Northeastern University and one of the paper’s authors.

The companies named in the report have defended the practices. Netflix said the information it receives from TVs that are not signed in to its service is confined to how the app appears and performs on screen.

Google said that “depending on the device manufacturer or the app owner, data sent to Google could include user location, device type and what the user is watching within a specific app so they can be targeted with personalized advertising.”

Back in 2015, Samsung found itself in trouble when its Smart TV privacy policy revealed that the devices were potentially eavesdropping on users and sharing the data.

Another report from last year showed that five of the top-selling brands of smart televisions tracked users’ viewing habits, even when they were not streaming.

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ShagnWagn

TS Guru
I have been wanting a new high end TV for a couple years, but this is exactly why I haven't. All I want is basically a monitor. I don't want to be charged for all this stupid "smart" crap. Neither do we need this microphone and camera crap, which just artificially raises the price.

We can buy separate devices if we want this privacy issue. Make it plug-n-play for those people. Focus on picture quality - sell a TV as a TV. How hard is that? Same thing with home theater receivers. Don't focus on the junk that will go outdated and break in a year. Otherwise why not just integrate a "smart" can opener and a blender into it? /facepalm
 
The moment you sign into most apps and click YES in the E.U.L.A. you've pretty much signed up for yourself to be monitored and spied on.

"would you like to send data to help improve this app"

This is why they want everything to be digital. Makes it easier to collect data and control devices remotely.

If they are just watching my buying behavior to sell me better products I want, I'm not so against that. I specifically try to set up notifications for when products I want come to Ebay's market. There are some products I'd buy in a heartbeat if I could get them for bottom dollar.

But if you're watching my porn habits: length, duration of fap, remission period, etc... then we've got a problem. But even then, Most of us wouldn't object to having very specific "content" recommended to us if it aligns with our desires and expectations.
 

stewi0001

TS Evangelist
Platinum
I have been wanting a new high end TV for a couple years, but this is exactly why I haven't. All I want is basically a monitor. I don't want to be charged for all this stupid "smart" crap.
I agree that I want a dumb TV as well. However, one of the reasons they have all this smart crap is to lower the cost and thus lowering the price for the consumer. There are other articles on TS that talk about it. I think there is one on Visio and it explains the how and why.
 

Bullwinkle M

TS Booster
I have been wanting a new high end TV for a couple years, but this is exactly why I haven't. All I want is basically a monitor. I don't want to be charged for all this stupid "smart" crap. Neither do we need this microphone and camera crap, which just artificially raises the price.

We can buy separate devices if we want this privacy issue. Make it plug-n-play for those people. Focus on picture quality - sell a TV as a TV. How hard is that? Same thing with home theater receivers. Don't focus on the junk that will go outdated and break in a year. Otherwise why not just integrate a "smart" can opener and a blender into it? /facepalm
My "smart" TV's have never been compromised or sent personal data

Same with my cellphone (I have never owned a smartphone or any phone without a removable battery)

I simply connect my "smart" TV directly to my "Personal" computer that does not run Spyware Platform 10 and ignore the TV's software (The TV never connects directly to the EvilNet)

I.O.T. garbage is not allowed in my home and TV stations are over the air (No cable allowed)
 

rrwards

TS Booster
I have been wanting a new high end TV for a couple years, but this is exactly why I haven't. All I want is basically a monitor. I don't want to be charged for all this stupid "smart" crap. Neither do we need this microphone and camera crap, which just artificially raises the price.

We can buy separate devices if we want this privacy issue. Make it plug-n-play for those people. Focus on picture quality - sell a TV as a TV. How hard is that? Same thing with home theater receivers. Don't focus on the junk that will go outdated and break in a year. Otherwise why not just integrate a "smart" can opener and a blender into it? /facepalm
If you actually want a new TV without all of this crap, look into "digital signage". It's exactly what you're looking for. It's a TV without all of the nonsense.
 
I have been wanting a new high end TV for a couple years, but this is exactly why I haven't. All I want is basically a monitor. I don't want to be charged for all this stupid "smart" crap. Neither do we need this microphone and camera crap, which just artificially raises the price.

We can buy separate devices if we want this privacy issue. Make it plug-n-play for those people. Focus on picture quality - sell a TV as a TV. How hard is that? Same thing with home theater receivers. Don't focus on the junk that will go outdated and break in a year. Otherwise why not just integrate a "smart" can opener and a blender into it? /facepalm
Just because the TV comes with a particular app, doesn't mean you have to even connect your TV to Wi-Fi/Ethernet, let alone sign into that app. Our TVs have the Netflix app, but we use our Roku sticks because they have way more channel choices available than the TV (plus, if we really wanted to, we could always bring a stick along with us on trips & hook up to hotel Internet & still have access to our accounts & channels).
 

ShagnWagn

TS Guru
If you actually want a new TV without all of this crap, look into "digital signage". It's exactly what you're looking for. It's a TV without all of the nonsense.
Thanks. That is pretty cool, but negates the point. Actually worse as they are "as much as 3x the price of consumer TVs"
https://www.crowntv-us.com/blog/digital-signage-displays-vs-consumer-tvs/
Consumer TV prices need to be brought down. Especially when they first came out, "smart TVs" were considerably more expensive for a similar model - by as much as $100-$150+... and that was just for the software. Add in microphones and cameras, now it is more. :(
 
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ShagnWagn

TS Guru
Just because the TV comes with a particular app, doesn't mean you have to even connect your TV to Wi-Fi/Ethernet, let alone sign into that app. Our TVs have the Netflix app, but we use our Roku sticks because they have way more channel choices available than the TV (plus, if we really wanted to, we could always bring a stick along with us on trips & hook up to hotel Internet & still have access to our accounts & channels).
I know your point, but not only have you paid for the "smart" portion of your TV, you are doubling your costs by still needing to buy a separate stick. Combine that with also paying for "smart" on a home theater, plus "smart" on a blu-ray player, etc etc. You proved my point. :)
 

Kibaruk

TechSpot Paladin
And what do you guys think that happens when you watch through the web on any device you are on? The exact same crap, you are logged in to a service, or streaming from a web, or simply going online, you are already being tracked by who knows how many companies and service providers...

It's not about a TV, or A device. For the most part the digital world is completely uncontrolled.
 
Just because the TV comes with a particular app, doesn't mean you have to even connect your TV to Wi-Fi/Ethernet, let alone sign into that app. Our TVs have the Netflix app, but we use our Roku sticks because they have way more channel choices available than the TV (plus, if we really wanted to, we could always bring a stick along with us on trips & hook up to hotel Internet & still have access to our accounts & channels).
I know your point, but not only have you paid for the "smart" portion of your TV, you are doubling your costs by still needing to buy a separate stick. Combine that with also paying for "smart" on a home theater, plus "smart" on a blu-ray player, etc etc. You proved my point. :)
Technically true about "doubling" the cost...although at the price points involved, they're not even comparable in their non-smart TV capabilities.

Take what my local Micro Center has available (https://www.microcenter.com/search/search_results.aspx?Ntk=all&sortby=pricelow&N=4294966895+4294817814+4294822454&myStore=true): cheapest non-smart 1080p TV is $80 USD, , but it's a 19" screen. So sure, paying $150 USD for the 40" Smart TV plus another $30 for the Roku Express stick is technically "paying double"...but you're also getting four times the screen area for the same resolution. Even if you wanted the heavily-discounted "32-inch class" TV (in this case, "32-inch class" means it's really a 31.5" TV), a) they heavily discounted it to get it down to $80 USD (normal price being the same $150 USD as the smart TV), & b) it's limited to 720p resolution (well below what even the Roku stick provides). And if you want a 4K HDTV that's not a smart TV, they don't have any (https://www.microcenter.com/search/search_results.aspx?N=4294966895+4294822454+4294817812&NTX=&NR=&filterProperty=&NTT=&NTK=all&page=1&sortby=pricelow&SortNow=Go).

Can't say for sure that the selection at other stores is the same...but I'm guessing that if you want a non-smart TV, you're going to have to settle for a) a smaller screen size, b) 720p maximum resolution, or c) both.
 
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ShagnWagn

TS Guru
Technically true about "doubling" the cost...although at the price points involved, they're not even comparable in their non-smart TV capabilities.

Take what my local Micro Center has available (https://www.microcenter.com/search/search_results.aspx?Ntk=all&sortby=pricelow&N=4294966895+4294817814+4294822454&myStore=true): cheapest non-smart 1080p TV is $80 USD, , but it's a 19" screen. So sure, paying $150 USD for the 40" Smart TV plus another $30 for the Roku Express stick is technically "paying double"...but you're also getting four times the screen area for the same resolution. Even if you wanted the heavily-discounted "32-inch class" TV (in this case, "32-inch class" means it's really a 31.5" TV), a) they heavily discounted it to get it down to $80 USD (normal price being the same $150 USD as the smart TV), & b) it's limited to 720p resolution (well below what even the Roku stick provides). And if you want a 4K HDTV that's not a smart TV, they don't have any (https://www.microcenter.com/search/search_results.aspx?N=4294966895+4294822454+4294817812&NTX=&NR=&filterProperty=&NTT=&NTK=all&page=1&sortby=pricelow&SortNow=Go).

Can't say for sure that the selection at other stores is the same...but I'm guessing that if you want a non-smart TV, you're going to have to settle for a) a smaller screen size, b) 720p maximum resolution, or c) both.
For now, I really only see a projector as an alternative. A descent true 4k projector is around $4-5000, then you have the screen, etc etc. A "2k" projector can be less than half that. But then you are looking at a 100+" screen. Not so much for a wife pleaser, and not easily movable or practical in many situations. sigh. Not many options.

Does anyone know of a list of TVs without microphones/cameras? It would be great if there was a filter for that when shopping. Or even "smart" filter.
 
I don't care if companies take data of any kind from the TV. Maybe taking data of all kinds from the TV will help the content to become more interesting for me personally. What I hate is that it every few months or so the picture quality seems to be changing when I'm watching Blu-ray disks. Even though the settings look unchanged I can see the difference and have to go messing with the settings again. Which is super frustrating and angers me! It seems to be the 4k TV.

I buy these disks because I want the extra quality viewing experience. The only thing I can figure is that maybe because the 4k TV and the Blu-ray player both have Wi-Fi. That someone is doing something to one or both of them from the internet or the 4k TV is self adjusting itself. I don't know for sure why it is happening but I never had these problems with my last TV or Blu-ray player which were both without the Wi-Fi feature.

So on this I would say to the industry take care of protecting the user experience first. When the user has it set the way they like it make sure it stays that way. Let that be your priority one. After that you can collect any data you want from my TV. Keep letting people mess with the picture quality though and I think your going to find the TVs off all the time. Data can't be worth much if the TV is constantly off.