Your TV Is Watching YOU
By Mike Pepper
It’s true! Recent research from Consumer Reports and tech media like C-Net and Wired magazine shows that so-called smart TVs are watching and recording how you use them and reporting that information back to their masters.
If this seems creepy to you, yeah, it is. (Unless, of course, you felt like you were never counted in the TV ratings and always kind of wanted to be.) If you have a smart TV, what you watch is being counted. Basically, they are watching what you watch, including the ads, and then sending the collected data back to the corporate servers. In some cases, they may even change the ads that you see. They use a system called Automatic Content Recognition (“ACR”) to figure out what you’re watching – so even if you’re watching a DVD, the TV can figure it out and report back to HQ.
On the good news side: you can turn the tracking off. It might be a little hidden away and/or disguised, but there is a setting somewhere that lets you disable the tracking features.
By the way; streaming boxes, like Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV, and Google’s Chromecast, also do this tracking. (Apple TV does not, in keeping with Apple’s privacy standards.) If you don’t want them tracking you and your family, check below for how to turn it off, or search for it online.
Companies need your permission to collect your personal viewing data, but they get it by slipping it into the “terms and conditions” that you click “I Agree” on when you’re setting up a new gizmo. Unless you read every single page, you’re going to miss it.
You can disconnect your smart TV from the internet to completely stop the tracking, but that would defeat the “smart” features entirely. If you use streaming services like Netflix or Prime Video, then you need that internet connection. Likewise for the voice-controlled remote features; those require the internet also.
Turn Down the “Smart”-ness
Instead of disconnecting altogether, find the ACR setting in your TV or streaming box, and turn that off. If you missed it in the terms-and-conditions, then the needed setting can be hard to find. It may not be explicitly called “ACR” so if your TV or streamer isn’t below, look up the brand and model and “ACR” or “privacy” on the internet.
Amazon Fire TVs
The Roku system comes built into many major brands and models of smart TVs. To turn off the ACR in these, press “Home” on the remote, then go to Settings > Privacy > Smart TV Experience. Uncheck “Use Information for TV Inputs” to disable the ACR system. (Roku says that their ACR does not track streaming services.)
Go the Settings from the Home screen, then look for “Support.” In there, find “Terms & Policies.” You’ll see settings for “Viewing Information Services” and “Interest-Based Advertising.” Turning off Viewing Information Services turns off the ACR.
There are so many variations in the Sony smart TVs, that the thing to do is look up your model online with the word “privacy.”
As you can see, there are several variations on what the tracking features are called and how they are exposed, or hidden, in the smart TV systems. If yours isn’t in the info above, do search for the make and model online with the words “settings” and “privacy” or “ACR.”
Hoping, as always, that this is all quite clear and useful; nevertheless if I can fill in some details or help with anything on your computers, please don’t hesitate to call: Mike Pepper ~ Computer Guy. www.PawlingComputerGuy.com 845-855-5824