The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a press release on February 6, 2017, that it and the State of New Jersey have settled with VIZIO for $2.2 million for claims that VIZIO installed software on its smart TVs to collect viewing data of 11 million consumers without their knowledge or consent. According to the press release, VIZIO is “one of the world’s largest manufacturers and sellers of internet-connected ‘smart’ televisions.”
According to the Complaint against VIZIO, filed in February of 2014, the software could obtain “second-by-second” information about what was being watched by the TV owner, including “video from consumer cable, broadband, set-top box, DVD, over-the-air broadcasts, and streaming devices.” It also was applying specific demographic information to the data, including “sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership and household value” which they were selling to third parties for targeting advertising to those consumers. That’s a lot of identifiable information that your TV is getting from you.
According to the FTC, VIZIO did not inform consumers that the settings on the TV enabled the collection of the data, and was collecting the data without their knowledge or consent, and that the collection was unfair and deceptive in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act and New Jersey consumer protection laws.
Under the settlement, VIZIO will pay the FTC $1.5 million and the State of New Jersey $1 million, with $300,000 suspended. The settlement was unanimously approved by the Commission.
We consistently inform readers about the Internet of Things and the collection of data from any device that is connected to the Internet. When purchasing these devices, it is important to read the fine print to try to figure out what kinds of your data are being collected and sold. If you don’t care, that’s o.k. If you do care that your TV is collecting your personal data and then selling it, then think twice about purchasing those products and be informed about which manufacturers are protecting privacy.
On a side note, we wish Jessica Rich, who has been a fierce advocate for consumers at the FTC for 16 years, the best of luck as she departs from the FTC.