Vizio Settles Smart TV Data Collection Complaint

The FTC challenges a company's sharing of TV viewing activity for the first time. Will it be the last time

Jeff Lewis AP Courtesy of LeEco

Fair explains the company also added the tracking tech to older models via a software update.

Representatives for Vizio, as well as the company's listed attorneys, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Vizio admitted no fault as part of the settlement despite paying a considerable fee for the practices it was sued for and agreeing to change those very practices.

Per the terms of the order filed this morning with a federal judge in New Jersey, Vizio must delete data collected before March 1, 2016.

Another smart TV maker, Samsung, drew scrutiny in 2015 when questions were raised about data collection from televisions using voice command functions. The money breaks down as $1.5 million to the FTC and $700,000 to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, plus some extra for attorneys fees. The deal to end a complaint over how 11 million "smart" TVs collected and disseminated the viewing data of its users, however, could be vestiges of a previous administration and may showcase how the consumer protection agency now intends to take a less active role in policing privacy. Defendants' ACR software captures information about a selection of pixels on the screen and sends that data to VIZIO servers, where it is uniquely matched to a database of publicly available television, movie, and commercial content. Defendants collect viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, external streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts.

In a statement, Vizio claimed its tellies "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 state and the FTC alleged that the companies violated state and federal laws because they failed to effectively inform customers that the smart televisions continuously collected and stored information about their viewing habits, and that the data was being sold to third parties for marketing purposes.

"VIZIO is pleased to reach this resolution, company general counsel Jerry Huang said in a statement".

Vizio also said that even before the settlement was announced, it had addressed the concerns by updating online and onscreen disclosures. The televisions VIZIO made from February 2014 and afterward were all capable of this and the same software was remotely installed on VIZIO televisions previously sold without it, the complaint states.

Additionally, Vizio must "prominently disclose and obtain affirmative express consent for its data collection and sharing practices, and prohibits misrepresentations about the privacy, security, or confidentiality of consumer information they collect", the ruling states.

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