Vizio fined by US authority for unauthorised data collection from TVs

News by Roi Perez

Electronics giant Vizio has been fined by the US Federal Trade Commission for collecting data from TVs across the US without the user's' permission.


The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ruled that electronics firm Vizio has to pay $US 2.2 million (£1.7 million) in fines after it transpired the company's TVs had spied on users.

The complaint was raised by the state of New Jersey, whose case claimed Vizio was violating privacy regulations by collecting data on the viewing habits of users of 11 million television sets across the US without warning or asking for permission.

According to a letter written by New Jersey's state attorney general to the FTC, from February 2014 March 2016, Vizio collected data such as what TV shows were being watched and resold that information to third parties, which mostly consisted of advertising firms.

Other data included DVDs watched and videos streamed over Netflix and other over-the-top services. The spying was allegedly so exact that, according to prosecutors, it knew exactly what you were watching and on occasion took screenshots.

Additionally, Vizio allegedly sold summaries of personal information about its customers, detailing their age, marital status and household income to advertisers without consent.

In a statement, Vizio said it's televisions "never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information", and that "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 electronics company has now updated its firmware to alert users to the collection of such information, allowing customers to turn off their participation should they wish to.

As well as the fine, the TV manufacturer will be required to delete all customer information collected before 1 March 2016 when it began to notify people of its data collection practices.

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