Quick, check what kind of TV you have. It is a Vizio smart TV? If it’s more recent than 2014 — or if you’ve updated the firmware on your older model — it’s been watching everything you watched, collecting that data, and selling it to third parties so they can better target advertising to you.
The FTC and New Jersey Attorney General’s office announced today they’ve reached a settlement with the TV manufacturer, after filing a complaint in November of 2015.
So how did everyone agree to this? In a delightfully sharp-elbowed blog post about the settlement, FTC senior attorney Lesley Fair explains:
Vizio put its tracking functionality behind a setting called “Smart Interactivity.” But the FTC and New Jersey AG say that the generic way the company described that feature – for example, “enables program offers and suggestions” – didn’t give consumers the necessary heads-up to know that Vizio was tracking their TV’s every flicker. (Oh, and the “Smart Interactivity” feature didn’t even provide the promised “program offers and suggestions.”)
The television manufacturer has agreed to pay a $2.2 million dollar fine to the FTC and the state of New Jersey. It also will also have to delete most of the data it collected, put a privacy program in place, disclose exactly what data it collects when it tracks your TV watching habits, and get your express consent to continue to do so.
“Vizio is pleased to reach this resolution with the FTC and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Going forward, this resolution sets a new standard for best industry privacy practices for the collection and analysis of data collected from today’s internet-connected televisions and other home devices,” said Jerry Huang, Vizios’s general counsel, in a statement provided to Select All. “The ACR program never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information, and the Commission did not allege or contend otherwise. Instead, as the complaint notes, the practices challenged by the government related only to the use of viewing data in the ‘aggregate’ to create summary reports measuring viewing audiences or behaviors.”
The company posted this on its Twitter account earlier today:
As of 6 p.m. ET, that site is currently 404ing.