Is Your TV Spying on You?

Thursday, February 19, 2015 Written by 
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If you have used the Internet for even a short while, then you know advertisers are hot on your trail, tracking every website you visit and every purchasing choice you make.  Click on a link for an online diet program, and before you know it, similar programs are popping up in your email.


So, it follow then that television manufacturers are also watching what you do.  The introduction of “smart” TVs over the past 3 years, have given new meaning to the phrase that your “TV is watching you.”


TV spying sounds like something out of science fiction, but according to IT consultant Jason Huntley, the future is now.   He realized his LG smart TV was tracking his family’s viewing habits and even knew his children’s names because he had watched a family video on his set. The technology which allows this to happen has a worrying side effect: it records everything else that goes on near the television.


A recent investigation found smart TVs from LG, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba tracked their owners’ suggestions of what to watch simply by giving a verbal command. Hackers took over LG smart sets in 2013 by remotely activating built-in web cams, literally spying on viewers. 


Samsung warns viewers:  “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”


Can you imagine your private family arguments or financial information being recorded and sent to a third party?


With the capability of listening to and seeing what owners do, smart TVs are creating serious privacy issues.  Samsung owners can opt out of the voice-activated mode, and should check what the policies are for opting out with other TV manufacturers.


If you are a smart TV owner, here are a few ways to protect yourself from these intruders:


  • Make sure you understand all the functionality of your TV. Read the manual and any on-screen information, including the small print of any terms and conditions of usage.
  • Know how to update the “smart” element of your TV and then make sure it’s always kept up to date.
  • Use the same caution as you would on your PC by not visiting dubious websites.
  • Regularly change passwords on any TV apps that require them.
  • Be wary about using social media websites via your TV. Sticking with standard streaming services like Netflix should keep you relatively safe.
  • If your smart TV has a built-in camera, mask it with a cover when not in use.
  • If you don’t use any of the “connected” services on your TV, don’t connect it to (or disconnect it from) your network (apart from when you need to install updates).

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