The popularity of Internet connected Smart TV is on the rise. In fact, TVs that are incapable of connecting to the internet are now considered old fashioned. Smart TVs from LG to Hisense to Samsung are finding their way into our living rooms more than ever before in Nigeria, so much so that virtually all TVs sold in the market are smart TVs. Your smart TV just like other smart devices isn’t smart for nothing. It is smart enough to know you and possibly get a lot more intimate. How much does your TV know about you?
Smart TVs can quietly collect information about your viewing habits which are then sent to the manufacturers’ servers or other third party servers, so it can target you with advertisements. Much of the information is collected by a technology called Automatic Content Recognition (ACR), which attempts to identify every show you watch on the TV—including cable, over-the-air broadcasts, streaming services, and even DVDs—and sends the data to the TV maker or one of its business partners, or both. To be fair, ACR helps the TV recommend other shows you might want to watch. But it’s also used for targeting ads to you and your family, and for other marketing purposes. And you can’t easily review or delete this data later.
Some smart TVs that use voice command technologies also listen to things you say right there in your room through the help of the TV microphone and sends them over the internet for remote processing. This discovery came as a shock to most people. But it’s pretty much the norm in most of the so called internet connected smart devices we own, especially those with inbuilt microphone. Smartphones readily come to mind. There are apps running on your smartphones and PCs that are listening through the inbuilt microphone. There are ways hackers, intelligence agencies, or clever companies can turn on those microphones and listen in without your knowledge. According to Bruce Schneier, “It’s the age of ubiquitous surveillance, fueled by both Internet companies and governments. And because it’s largely happening in the background, we’re not really aware of it.”
But the good news is that there are ways to keep your smart TV from the prying eyes of the companies that make them. In fact, one sure way is to disconnect it completely from the internet. But unfortunately that’s not a realistic option for most people. So, how can you stop your smart TV from snooping on you?
First, you can deny permission for ACR as you set up the TV—you’ll need to read each screen carefully and make sure you don’t just click “okay” to all the privacy policies and user agreements. But if you’ve already been using the TV and now want to turn off ACR, there are specific settings to fine-tune in order to turn off these features on your smart TVs from LG, Samsung, Hisense, to Sony. It’s important to remember that practically any device that’s connected to the internet will probably track you in some way or another. But having even an understanding of how this works, who collects it and why matters a lot. The only problem with turning off access to data collection is that many functions that make a television ‘smart’ disappear when you do so.