4 ways your Smart TV is Watching you
Table of contents
Today we are going to be talking about 4 ways your smart tv is watching you. Smart TV’s have helped change the way we consume media. For some, it gives better content options than what is available locally. For others, it is a cheaper high-quality alternative to regular TV (especially this year, due to the pandemic, cord-cutting rates are at record highs). It is expected that the number of cord-cutters will reach almost 50% in the next 5 years.
Although, there are some oddities with the way smart TV’s and their market operates.
For example, have you ever wondered why smart TVs are so cheap? In fact, some smart TVs are cheaper than their “dumb” counterparts. Are these companies so nice that they will charge you so little for their amazing tech?
However, with all the good things smart TVs bring, there are some sinister bad’s and we are going to be exploring those bad’s thoroughly in this article. Let’s get started.
If you are going to steal data and breach people’s privacy, at least do it securely! It’s like these companies think that they can take data from their users but no one is going to try and take the same data from them.
This data is valuable, if you are taking the time to steal it then someone else is planning to do the same thing. Especially when they find out the communication channels used are not secured at all.
Why do you need my Address?
You would expect smart TV’s to know what shows you were watching and how long you watch them for. There is some plausible deniability there, maybe they just want to know so they can recommend better content to you.
But why do they need to know my address? Why do they need to track my address as I move?
Not only are they tracking where the TV is at all times, but they are also sending this information over insecure channels (as was shown in the last point).
Which means there are hackers with big smiles on their faces and why? because those hackers don’t even need to spend their time and energy hacking into your house, they can simply tap into the insecure communication channel broadcasting your location.
You were always told it’s a bad habit to talk while watching a movie. We would recommend you expand that to not talking while watching anything on your smart TV because someone is listening.
We were told voice controls would make using our smart TV more convenient but at what cost?
Here is the problem with “wake words” (voice commands used to turn on your TV while it is idle). Your TV has to listen to everything you say to filter out the non-commands and we mean everything.
To add to the previous point, a lot of the time, the local device is not powerful enough to parse your voice, so that data is sent to the manufacturer’s server for extra processing. That means, there is a very high chance that the things you have said near your TV are somewhere in the cloud.
Actually Watching You
Why does a TV need a camera? Seriously, why does a TV need a camera?
When we started researching and writing this article we used the word “Watch” as a kind of metaphor. It was meant to mean people can see all the telemetry and statistics coming from your TV. In effect “Watching” you.
We never in our wildest dreams thought these manufacturers would be so brazen as to install a camera on the TV.
So, in addition to listening to you, they can watch you as you enjoy your favorite shows.
Today we talked about 4 ways your smart TV is watching you. However these are not the only 4 ways, we focused on the ones that were easiest to understand for our readers. You should always be alert when dealing with a device that connects to the internet, especially when it is a smart device (and not a traditional computer).
How can you fix it? Well, it gets weird, Have you ever wondered why smart TVs are dirt cheap?
In fact, some smart TVs are cheaper than their “dumb” counterparts, could manufacturing innovation be so rapid that the new versions of something are better and cheaper?
No, the reasons these devices are so cheap is because the companies that sell you the TV’s also sell you. And we mean sell YOU, All your viewing data is actually used to subsidize the price of the smart TV’s and companies make large amounts of money from your viewing data.
It has gotten so bad that the FBI has had to warn people of the immense dangers that smart TV’s can pose to their privacy and home network security.
What you can do
You might say “hmm, I’ll just disconnect my TV from the internet and I’ll be safe” but that is a half measure. It has been found that some smart TVs connect to the internet all on their own, even when you tell them not to…
Besides, a lot of these TV’s feature “Do Not Track” options, but enabling those options strangely does not reduce the number of data points being sent back to the manufacturer. It is almost like they expect you to focus on what’s on the screen and not what is going on inside the screen.
If you want to protect your home and your privacy, you should visit the links below. We do a lot of research into how people’s privacy is breached and the ways to fix those privacy breaches.
Thanks for your time.
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- Hooman Mohajeri Moghaddam, Gunes Acar, Ben Burgess, Arunesh Mathur, Danny Yuxing Huang, Nick Feamster, Edward W. Felten, Prateek Mittal, and Arvind Narayanan. 2019. Watching You Watch: The Tracking Ecosystem of Over-the-Top TV Streaming Devices. In Proceedings of the 2019 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS ’19). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 131–147.