Your TV is spying on you but you can stop it
Fun fact: The first Compaq Portable computer shipped in 1983 and cost more than $8,400 in today’s dollars. Wow, times have changed.
Still, your computer is a significant investment, and you want it to perform well for years.
You don’t have to deal with the same issues with your television, but one common question I get is the best method to wipe away fingerprints and dust.
Unfortunately, you have to think about tracking on your TV just like on a computer or phone. Keep reading to find out how you welcomed a spy into your living room — and what you can do about it.
Why are TVs so cheap?
Remember back in the day when a big flat-screen TV was a total luxury item?
Now, TVs come with a host of bells, whistles and smart features, and you can buy top-of-the-line models for a fraction of the price. What gives?
It’s all about the data. You already know your private information is worth big bucks. One way to stop greedy data brokers is by removing yourself from their people search sites.
Think about all your TV knows about you and your family. That data makes up for the low price of new televisions. Over time, this data farming recoups more money than they ever made on those sets.
Are you shopping for a TV? There are a lot of buzzwords and marketing terms to get you to spend more. Don’t fall for it.
Is it worth it? It depends
It’s hard to do much in the digital world without it being tracked, monitored, or monetized in some way. Some people work hard to find ways around that, opting to pay for extra privacy or use alternatives focused on users, not data mining.
Others throw up their hands, saying this is the price we pay for free and cheap services and devices we rely on to run our lives.
I fall somewhere in the middle. Yes, there is some amount of tracking and data collection you must swallow if you want to use anything from a smart assistant to your inbox.
But you don’t have to approve every collection method blindly. There’s a lot you can do to take back your privacy so long as you’re willing to dive into your device’s settings.
When it comes to your TV, here’s where to start.
Stop your TV from spying
Many smart TVs come equipped with cameras most people don’t realize are there. There’s not much you can do short of voiding the device’s warranty and removing it yourself. You could cover it up, but who wants electrical tape on their television screen?
Start with your smart TV’s tracking features — especially Automatic Content Recognition (ACR).
What is ACR, and how do you turn it off? It’s a visual recognition feature that can identify every ad, TV show or movie you’re playing on your TV. This includes streaming boxes, cable/over-the-air TV and even DVD and Blu-Ray players.
This data is collected and used for marketing and targeted advertising purposes. If this all sounds too creepy, there are ways to turn it off. The exact methods will depend on your TV’s brand.
On older Vizio TV sets that use Vizio Internet Apps (VIA), go to the TV’s System and then: Reset & Admin > Smart Interactivity > Off.
On Vizio smart TVs that use the newer SmartCast system, go to System > Reset & Admin > Viewing Data > toggle it to Off.
On newer Samsung sets, go to Settings > Support > scroll down to Terms & Policies. Here you can turn off Viewing Information Services (Samsung’s ACR technology), Internet-based Advertising (for personalized ad tracking), and Voice Recognition Services.
On older Samsung smart TVs, go to the TV’s Smart Hub menu > Settings > Support > look for Terms & Policy > then disable SyncPlus and Marketing. You can disable Voice Recognition Services in this section, too.
Keep in mind that turning off your Samsung TV’s Voice Recognition Services will disable its voice commands.
LG’s ACR technology is baked into its newer WebOS-powered smart TVs, known as LivePlus. To turn this off, go to Settings > All Settings > scroll down to General > scroll down to a setting called LivePlus > toggle it to Off.
To limit other forms of data collection on your LG smart TV, go back to Settings > All Settings > scroll down to General > About This TV > User Agreements > toggle Personalized Advertising to Off.
More steps to keep your habits private
If you’re hoping to minimize big data’s impact on your viewing experience, here are more tips to try.
- Adjust your privacy settings to limit what data your device sends back to the manufacturer.
- Disable voice control. This may stop your TV from analyzing conversations to listen for the wake word or commands.
- Avoid free apps and channels. A mix of ads and data collection generally supports these.
- Consider what your streaming services and devices track, too.
The internet is a dangerous place. I can help you stay safe from hackers and scammers. Sign up for my free daily tech newsletter.
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