But they’re not without their drawbacks. A study conducted by Princeton University in the US has concluded that many of these internet-enabled TVs are risking our personal privacy and data. The associate professor at Princeton University – Arvind Narayanan – claims that those who use Wi-Fi enabled devices – such as the Amazon Firestick or Roku – are at risk of being watched, and their personal data and activity being logged and shared.
Why Should You Be Worried?
The thought that smart TVs collect data can be frightening. Many believe that the reason TVs are so much more affordable than they were a handful of years ago is for this very reason. This prompts users to buy certain models. Then they can be targeted for adverts, encouraging them to part their money elsewhere as well.
Other studies have found similar results too. A study conducted by Northeastern University analyzed a wide range of ‘smart’ devices, and found that many of them – the Ring doorbell to name one – monitor when users talk within range of the device, even when the user is unaware of this. This is some scary stuff!
In order to come up with more conclusive data when it came to smart TVs, Arvind Narayanan, along with his co-author, engineered a bot. This bot would automatically download and install thousands of different channels to their respective devices. It would then mimic human behavioral patterns by watching and browsing through different videos. The moment the bot came across an ad, it would start to track data. This would imply that his findings were true.
It goes without saying that certain kinds of information aren’t unique to each user. This includes the device being used and the time of activity. It also includes the strength of the Wi-Fi connection, the country of usage, and so on. But there was a lot of data captured that certainly was unique. This is said to be a way of pinpointing who you are as an individual. It will capture your personal and specific needs and desires as an online user.
Attention: Read before you continue
Governments and ISPs across the world monitor their users online activities. If found streaming or browsing content on your Fire TV Stick, mobile or PC, you could get into serious trouble.
Currently, the following information is visible:
- Your IP:
- Your Country:
- Your City:
- Your ISP:
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They Carried Out an Experiment
The experiment that was conducted found that 69 percent of channels on the Roku, and a whopping 89 percent of channels on the Amazon Firestick or Fire TV contained tracks. These tracks monitor users’ movement and behavior. The companies have since tried to defend themselves. They claim that this sort of thing is for the users benefit, acting as a way to filter out the stuff they don’t like or don’t interact with. It then replaces it with stuff that’s more relevant to them as an individual.
They have also tried to bolster their defense by saying that users are able to turn off any kind of targeted advertising. But this isn’t exactly true. This only prevents their personal ID from being tracked. All the other unique information is still up for grabs for these corporations.
Narayanan believes that better privacy controls for users would somewhat help. But in the long run, this issue will persist. And it seems that, at the moment anyway, there aren’t too many ways around this issue. If users need these devices to make the most of their TV and entertainment, then handing over some of their private information and data might be the only trade that can make this possible.
Finding out that smart TVs collect data can be a scary concept. This is especially considering how many accounts and personal – as well as financial – information we may have inputted into these devices. Having said that, they’re also crucial in order to enjoy modern TV. This is because streaming from a variety of apps has become the new norm in this sense. Either use a VPN such as IPVanish to prevent yourself from being monitored, or accept the fact, and carry on streaming!
What are your thoughts on the idea that smart TVs collect data? Drop a comment below to let us know!