Mass data collection lands TV maker in hot water

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TV manufacturer Vizio has faced allegations from the US Federal Trade Commission for unlawfully collecting viewing data on customers, and is facing a $2.2 million payout.

The company was said to have captured data on what customers are viewing on the TV and sending the information back to their servers. The data was then sold on to third parties. In its defence, Vizio has said that no data could be matched to individuals.

Mark James, ESET IT Security Specialist, talks about connected devices and the potential for data collection form these devices.

“Televisions these days, much like mobile phones, are way more than their name suggests.

“When we go to buy a TV from our local store, one of the first things we look at is what features it has, what apps can it use, what MORE can it do.

“Often with wireless or wired internet connections as standard we have to accept that these large screen computers have the power and capability to not only provide us with web browsers and your favourite streaming service direct from the set, but to also send some of our info back to the makers or even a third party server.

“Knowing what can be, or is, sent should be clearly laid out for you to see before you commit to the set.

“These days we have to accept the fact that service use and data sharing will, and often, does go both ways.

“Bear in mind the TV needs to be connected to the internet for this info to be sent in the first place.

Manufacturers must clearly display their intentions and offer any incentives for your participation and the option to opt-in (not out) if required.

“As with the majority of IoT and ‘smart’ devices, Smart TV’s are a double edged sword. That ‘intelligence’ or Operating System needs to be constantly updated, as it is prone to all manner of attacks just like your everyday PC.

“As our digital world becomes larger our need for connected devices increases also, but of course that is also a problem for privacy.

“What data are they harvesting? Where is it being sent? Who is responsible for keeping it safe? Do I even know your collecting it?

“These are all questions that need to be answered. The public need to be assured they can trust that the people responsible for the hardware and software integration have their best interests at heart and safety is still the number one concern.”

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