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Is your Smart TV Spying on you?

Written by Anuraag Singh ~ Modified: 15-02-2022 ~ General ~ 5 Minutes Reading

After the novel coronavirus breakdown, in every household television became the centre of attraction for entertainment purposes. Since OTT platforms (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc) are now dominating, the demand for Smart TV is rising drastically. In general, the features like voice and facial recognition, video chatting option, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, Voice commands, etc. make a smart TV SMART. Since smart TVs have so many in-built features like cameras and mics, it is relevant to ask the question, is your smart tv spying on you?

Don’t get surprised because the answer is Yes!

Unlike computers and mobile phones, smart TVs have a basic processor and many of them don’t have any Antivirus protection. So this makes the new generation of TVs more vulnerable to cyber threats.

Many of you might be biting your nails thinking can you be watched through your TV?

Well, the answer is right below.

How Does Smart TV Spy on You?

Different methods enable smart TV to spy on you.

1. ACR Technology

Smart TVs spy and collect your data using a technology named Automatic Content Recognition. Almost every smart television has built-in ACR technology.

This lets the device and manufacturer of the device gather information related to content consumption at the screen level.

Also, they achieve the same by using fingerprinting and watermarking techniques. The fingerprinting technique can be both audio and video fingerprinting. 

You must have found your answer to the question ‘why are you getting suggested related videos every time you open Youtube and Facebook on TV?’

2. Smart TV Camera and Microphone

A lot of modern devices have an automatic mic on option. But smart TVs let hackers reach further. Because most new TVs come with attached camera and microphone. These were included for voice and facial recognition purposes. 

However, by taking advantage of these features, hackers spy on you and it seems hard to escape as almost everyone owns a smart TV. Yet, is there any motive behind spying through the television?

So, is your smart TV spying on you?. Definitely yes!

Well, of course, there are reasons for targeting the new generation of TVs to spy on you. The main and ultimate purpose is to gather information.

Do Smart TVs Collect Data?

As smart TV lacks many security measures so it can collect substantial amounts of your data.

For instance, after purchasing the TV you configure the same by adding your name, age, gender, etc. So it is capable of collecting demographic data.

You know every device that can connect itself to the internet has an IP address. As smart TV makes no exception so it also has an IP address. Through an IP address, someone can easily find your current location

In addition to that recognizing socioeconomic status through IP address is not a difficult task.

Moreover, ACR can monitor and collect information related to the type of content you are watching and the screen time as well.

Smart TV not only became the medium for privacy invasion but also risks the other devices connected to it. Such as Bluetooth speakers, WiFi, Routers, USB pen drives, etc. Hence the data stored on these devices could be at risk especially the WiFi network.

Also, there is no doubt, hackers illegally access the WiFi network by making Smart TV the host to collect sensitive information.

Let’s now discuss some examples which will give you an idea of the possible threats.

Real-Life Example of a Smart TV Spying Threat

Only piling up the data is not the motive of TV manufacturers. Further, they sell your data to third-party marketers. One of the live examples is Vizio Smart TV. In Feb 2017, Vizio had to pay $2.2 billion for tracking and selling information to the advertisers.

For spying, utilizing ACR technology is now the common medium of many smart TV manufacturers. You have to believe it as the privacy policy of Samsung TV justifies the same. It says, ‘To improvise the customized Smart TV experience, some of its features and services will make use of viewing history. It includes the information related to your network, channels, websites that you visit, your favourite programs, etc.’.

Also, In 2016 Samsung was on the news for sending voice commands (personal and other sensitive info) to 3rd-party for processing. Samsung is a popular choice among many households, some security consultants took Tizen (Samsung open-source operating system) to find any lack of protection. As a result, they found 40 zero-day vulnerabilities.  

Not just Samsung TV, other smart TVs like Sony, Samba, LG, etc. have security breaches that support hackers to spy on you.

How to Stop Smart TV From Spying on You?

Smart TV (like Samsung, Sony, etc ) users (from ordinary people to presidents of any country) are not bound to a continent. They are spread around the world. So, protecting the entertainment source is essential.

Cyber expert of India, Anuraag Singh suggest considering the security service (mentioned below) that will prevent intruders from spying.

As you already know that the IP address of the device is key to exploiting many other security breaches. 

Hence installing a VPN with the help of an expert will do the work for you. Why need an expert? Well, many smart TVs are not compatible with the VPN setup. 

Thus, a cyber professional with expertise in the field of cybersecurity will thoroughly check the compatibility. Then can install a VPN (Virtual Private Network) according to your device. 

Furthermore, how VPN can protect your smart TV?

Well, the best VPNs use military-grade data encryption that ensures the safety of your sensitive information.

In addition to that VPNs have features that can block tracking of your daily activity and unnecessary ads.

Most importantly, it will hide your real IP address, as a result, hackers will not be able to track down your current location. And other connected devices like WiFi, Bluetooth, Routers will be safe.

So, is your smart TV spying on you? Maybe, maybe not! But, it’s not worth risking your data.