By: H.W. Pfabe | April 02, 2017

Steven Taylor/ Getty Images and Ninell/ Shutterstock & LinkedIn

Just a short post this week, and it’s another one that is somewhat inspired by recent Washington-related events, but isn’t really about politics at all.


Several weeks ago, WikiLeaks released a large batch of documents which purport to detail the US government’s tactics and abilities for monitoring people through various pieces of technology, including secretly recording conversations that take place near Samsung SmartTVs. Kellyanne Conway then famously commented on microwave ovens being transformed into cameras.


Artist’s rendition of the evil transforming microwave; Copyright Ben Procter

In seemingly unrelated news, the House of Representatives approved a bill this week which would allow internet service providers, such as Comcast, Charter, or Verizon, to sell your personal information, including your browser history. The bill has already been approved by the Senate, with voting going directly along a Republican v. Democrat line.


What do these two things possibly have to do with each other? Would anyone even buy your personal internet information?


Well, it turns out that your internet viewing and personal information may already have been sold, and it might be thanks to your TV!





Vizio is one of the largest manufacturers of televisions in the world, including internet-enabled Smart TVs. According to the FTC, Vizio installed software on a number of their TVs, starting in February of 2014, which has allowed them to collect second-by-second data on over 11 MILLION consumers.


This data consisted of viewing habits, every second of every program watched, any internet browsing that was done through the internet-enable TVs, and even personal information such as age, gender, income, marital status, educational level, and more. All of this was done without permission from the users.


What happened with all of this personal information?


Vizio sold it.





Vizio reached a settlement with the FTC and with the state of New Jersey, which brought the action, last month.


Vizio will be required to pay a fine of $2.2 Million and delete all data that was collected before March 1, 2016. Vizio will also be strictly monitored in regards to any future data collection or deceptive agreements with customers, including ongoing assessments twice every year.


Essentially, Vizio will have to make it clear to their customers that, by using certain hardware or software, they are giving permission to have their personal data collected and sold.





While this isn’t the type of “spying” cited by WikiLeaks, this matter does bring home just home much of our personal lives can be gathered from our TVs and from our internet activity. The prospect of selling our personal information and our browser histories is very real, and is already going on.


We should all be aware of what we look at online and what personal information can be gathered. It looks as though, in the immediate future, a lot of our information WILL be for sale.


If this case is any example, your personal information will be collected and sold; you just might not notice that you clicked on the “Yes” box saying you gave your permission to do so.

Category: Privacy 

Tags: Vizio TV WikiLeaks