Apart from the damages, Vizio has also been ordered by the federal court to delete all information that it had stored on its servers before March1, 2016.
If you have always been intrigued how Vizio was able to offer its range of smart TVs at rock bottom prices, well you have the answer now. It seems it made up for the initial slump by selling your private data that it acquired discreetly without you ever having any inkling of what’s happening behind the screen.
The way Vizio was able to pull it off is also of the most hi-tech nature. All of it has been possible thanks to a software called Automated Content Recognition or ACR that allowed the manufacturer to collect the customer’s viewing history and came to be installed on its sets since February 2014.
The software recorded pixel data from a portion of the screen once every second. This was sent back to the company’s servers where it would be compared against a database comprising of film, advertisement, and TV content to determine what the viewer has been watching. This way, the software will not only know what you have been watching but also how long you watched as well.
Other information that too was collected includes your IP address, the Wi-Fi signal strength along with other Wi-Fi access points in the vicinity. All of it made for ginormous amounts of data collected each day – more than 100 billion data points – that were being collected from over 20 million TV sets.
All of the information together with the IP addresses was passed on to third party players for a profit. It is not exactly known how the data thus collected will be utilized though one way it can be put to good use to is targeted advertising. The data will also be a gold mine for audience measurement purposes as well.
What is also not known if the company has actually been looking at what you have been up to while watching TV. Experts opine it can’t be ruled out entirely and recommends having a white tape pasted on top of the cam to rule out such a scenario.
How to turn off Smart TV spying?
As for preventing Vizio from collecting your viewing trends, you will have to explicitly turn off Automated Content Recognition. For doing that, go to your TV Menu > Settings and disable Smart Interactivity.
Chinese company LeEco that bought out Vizio, however, stated their acquisition plans remains on track even though the company has to pay $2.2 million to settle the charges levied by the FTC and State of New Jersey.