Vizio Smart TVs track your viewing habits, info is sold to third parties

Owners of Smart TVs manufactured by California-based consumer electronics company Vizio should be aware that their viewing habits are being tracked and that information sold to third parties (“partners”).

And, what’s more, with a recent change of the company’s privacy policy, the company has started providing this data to companies that “may combine this information with other information about devices associated with that IP address.”

“Beginning October 31, 2015, VIZIO will use Viewing Data together with your IP address and other Non-Personal Information in order to inform third party selection and delivery of targeted and re-targeted advertisements. These advertisements may be delivered to smartphones, tablets, PCs or other internet-connected devices that share an IP address or other identifier with your Smart TV,” the privacy policy says.

Vizio’s competitors Samsung and LG Electronics can also track users’ viewing habits via their smart TV offerings, ProPublica’s Julia Angwin pointed out, but the feature has to be explicitly turned on by the users.

The collection of Viewing Data by Vizio’s Smart TVs is turned on by default, as is the Smart Interactivity feature that manages it.

Even though users can turn of both via the TV’s menu, and this won’t affect the performance of the device, the problem is that many, many users won’t bother reading the privacy policy or change the default settings once they set up the TV and start using them.

According to the latest numbers, Vizio sold over 10 million Smart TVs.

While, in theory, IP addresses are not personal information, they actually can be linked to individuals if there is enough information (specific attributes like age, profession, etc.) tied to it.

According to Angwin’s sources, the company has been working with data broker Neustar to combine viewing data with this type of information about the user.

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