Electronics manufacturer Vizio has been fined $2.2 million for collecting viewing data from more than 11 million devices without prior consent. Vizio’s smart TVs captured second-by-second information and sent it back to servers owned by the manufacturer, to be later sold to third-parties.
The footage, being tracked since February 2014, was recorded using automated content recognition (ACR) software and even on devices that didn’t ship with the software preinstalled (presumably it was later installed via an OTA update).
Seemingly, the data collection could be opted out of via a TV setting named “Smart Interactivity”, which was said to recommend TV shows. This setting’s description made no mention of the data collection as part of its functionality, however, and actually failed to deliver the recommendation service outlined.
Vizio also has an Android app which lets you use your device as a remote and cast shows, though it’s not clear if any user behavior from this was tracked.
The company must now pay $1.5 million to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and $700,000 to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs in addition to deleting all of the data collected prior to March 1, 2016.
Vizio has also agreed to obtain explicit consent for data it collects in future, which is nice of it.
Meanwhile, it was announced in January that Vizio’s SmartCast devices are now compatible with Google Home; it’s a pairing that now sounds like a recipe for privacy disaster.
I personally think the $2.2 million total fee is peanuts for Vizio and I’d be hurt if it was my data that had been shared, but what’s your view? Let me know in the comments.