Your TV is watching you

Surveillance capitalism is already here

privacy 2 minute read

When you buy an Alexa speaker or a device with built in Google Assistant, you probably expect it to listen and record, at least when you talk to it. But there is something else in your home that is monitoring you all the time and sending that data to third parties. It is your “Smart” TV.

Almost every smart TV from every brand run local content recognition software (ACR) to detect your media consumption patterns. This software not only records what channels and apps you use, but it actually watches what is on the screen and categorizes it. So even when you watch private home videos it knows and sees everything. When you connect your computer and watch streamed shows from that website with a thousand ads, the TV sees all.

There have even been reports of some TV manufacturers periodically recording actual screenshots and video clips of what is displayed and uploading to their servers. Samsung recently made news by mentioning this in their actual privacy policy. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a recent trend. This has been a common strategy for over 10 years, all the way back to the first Smart TV products.

This all encompassing monitoring done by our TVs creepily echoes the classic 1984 novel, but that book was supposed to be a warning not a guide!

The only sure way to get around this is to never connect your Smart TV to the internet. Some more recent TVs have well hidden privacy settings that can disable most monitoring and reporting, but you can never be sure that all of it is gone. You are much safer with using a streaming stick or device from a manufacturer that you trust.

There are plenty of articles around the web on this subject, but this short video from Cheddar I saw recently on YouTube explains it really well.

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The takeway for me is: It is not only Facebook, Google and Amazon that monitors everything we do online. It is the whole tech industry. “Surveillance Capitalism” is our new reality.

For further deep dive into that topic, have a look at this great DW documentary about Amazon and the future of digital consumerism and data capitalism.

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