You may have heard the concerns that a growing number of people have about their smart TVs spying on them and collecting unnecessarily excessive amounts of personal data.
So, the questions you must be asking yourself are – do all smart TVs have cameras? And just how much data does a smart TV collect? Since smart TVs connect to the internet in order to provide viewers with the smart features and options, such as watching streaming channels, file sharing, using apps, and more, there is a risk of your data, passwords and internet usage, and TV viewing habits and info can be exposed to third parties. The same goes for any other internet-connected device which does not have protection.
The problem is that most owners fail to take action to secure their smart TVs as they would do for their computers and phones.
This can lead to your data being collected and monitored by the smart TV manufacturer and by hackers and other malicious users, and even by the government.
While some modern smart TVs have cameras used for facial recognition to switch viewing suggestions depending on who is watching intelligently, or for having video calls via the TV, not all smart TVs have cameras.
What type of data does a smart TV collect?
Even if your smart TV doesn’t have a camera, it still likely does collect personal data about you and the other viewers and users of the TV.
Most smart TVs rely on ACR (automatic content recognition) to collect information regarding your specific viewing habits and preferences. This technology keeps track of your preferred content so that the TV can suggest suitable content for you, but advertisers and third parties may also use the collected information to show you targeted ads.
Some of the collected information may include non-viewing related data, including your IP address, location, and other sensitive information. This information may land in the hands of the manufacturer, advertisers, cybercriminals, and even the government.
The good news is that you can turn the ACR function off by accessing your smart TV’s privacy settings. Still, you will need to read the user agreement by the manufacturer of your TV to find out more about what data could be collected by the device’s manufacturers.
The bad news is that being part of the World Wide Web, your smart TV can be vulnerable to hackers’ malicious attacks if proper precautions have not been taken. Some users have reported cases in which they have been spied upon via their TV’s built-in mic and camera by hackers. The hackers can also access the functionalities of the TV and can even switch your channels and meddle with what is being displayed, the volume, and more.
As a result of a settlement between the FTC and Vizio a few years ago, manufacturers of smart TVs need to ask for the consent of their customers before collecting any data regarding their viewing habits and other personal information.
How to make your smart TV more secure?
Although the best way to protect your privacy and data is to not connect your smart TV to the Wi-Fi and internet, this is not a suitable solution for everybody because most viewers want to use their TVs to watch their favorite streaming networks and online content.
So, here are some of the precautions you can take in order to make your data more secure when using an internet-connected TV:
- Investigate what types of features your TV has and how you can toggle these settings to ensure a more secure privacy level;
- Perform an internet search of your TV model with keywords like microphone, camera, privacy, and more;
- Check how you can turn off the camera and microphone of your TV and disable always-on mic or camera access, especially if you don’t use them;
- If you have a camera, cover its lens with some black tape;
- Make sure you update the software of your smart TV to ensure it has all the latest security patches;
- Change the usernames and passwords of your routers, set-top boxes, streaming sticks, and other internet-connected devices;
- Change your default passwords, usernames, and security settings for the different streaming and other online services you use to more complex ones which are hard to guess;
- Update the internet browsers you use on your TV regularly to ensure it is as secure as possible;
- Install a VPN on your TV;
- Be wary of the apps you download and install on your TV, and of the sites you visit and services you use;
- Use reliable antivirus software on your other internet-connected devices, such as phones, computers, and tablets.