You only have to take a trip to the local big-box store to see a variety of smart TVs for sale—in fact, chances are that most if not all TVs you can purchase in the near future will be smart. They will let you connect to the internet and stream movies and television, which is an awesome feature. But have you ever wondered how they can offer such amazing pieces of technology for so cheap?
Interviews with industry professionals like Vizio’s chief technology officer, Bill Baxter, have uncovered the unpleasant truth behind those cheap prices. Many smart TV manufacturers are collecting your data and selling it to other companies.
For a smart TV to function, it needs to be connected to the internet. That is how you can easily search for shows and movies and stream them, anytime you like. But the pipeline that lets you download all that data goes both ways, which means that your TV can transmit data back to the manufacturer who made the television.
According to Consumer Reports, most of the information that is collected by smart TVs is gathered by a technology known as automatic content recognition or ACR. The ACR technology is designed to pay close attention to every decision you make on your television. Each show you play, including streaming services, cable, over-the-air broadcasts, and more, are all logged by the ACR on your TV. In fact, ACR can even tell what Blu-ray discs and DVDs you watch on your TV.
On the surface, ACR is touted as a beneficial technology because it can gather your data and then use your data to offer you recommendations. If you tend to watch action movies, it will recommend more action movies and action shows to watch. But ACR is there for much more than just giving you recommendations. It is designed to collect your data and then send it back to someone—usually the TV manufacturer.
According to the interview with Bill Baxter, most TV companies make very little off of the TVs that they sell—hence why they offer them at such low prices. They will often even sell the TVs at a loss to get them into your home. Once they are in your home, they can be used to earn the manufacturer money by selling your data to marketers and by selling other things like movies on the TV.
You may be able to turn off ACR on your television or you may not. It will depend on your TV and what options are available. However, it is definitely worth looking into if you do not want your data being collected by your TV manufacturer.
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