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Smart TVs continue to send sensitive information to third parties

Just add this to the list of items tracking us.

smart tv on white stand
Image: Walmart

By the end of 2019, 46 million US households are expected to own a smart TV. This is nearly a 16.0% increase from 2017.

With a rising consumer base comes rising concerns. These concerns are mainly centered around privacy, which really isn’t all that surprising when you consider all the leaks that have been happening over the past few months.

A recent large-scale research project shows us just how sensitive data is being thrown around by these smart TVs to third parties.

Some of your favorite smart TVs and streaming dongles have been sending data to Netflix and other third-party advertisers

Researchers from Northeastern University and Imperial College London found a series of smart TVs from the likes of Samsung and LG sending out data such as location and IP address to Netflix and other third-party advertisers. Streaming dongles such as Roku and FireTV were also found to be doing the same.

Another study conducted by Princeton University revealed that some Roku and FireTV apps were sending specific user identifiers to third parties, which included Google. The Northeastern University study was done on 81 different devices within the US and UK and concluded that “notable cases of information exposure” were happening, with Amazon, Google, Akami, and Microsoft being the most frequently contacted companies.

The research team stated that third party services receive data such as device information, user locations, and when people are interacting with their TV. Professor David Choffnes, a computer scientist at Northeastern University, stated “they might even know when you’re home and when you’re not,” which is a quite concerning statement if you ask me.

All the companies mentioned in the report made a public statement defending themselves. Netflix stated that the information it receives from TVs that are not signed in to its service is confined to how the app appears and performs on screen. Google stated that “depending on the device manufacturer or the app owner, data sent to Google could include user location, device type and what the user is watching within a specific app so they can be targeted with personalized advertising.” Read more regarding the report here.

What do you think? Surprised by this news surrounding smart TVs and advertisers? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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