Is Your Smart TV Keeping Tabs On You?

If you'd rather it not, there's a way to address it

Smart TV
A woman posing in front of an 88 inch Smart TV with a curved Quantum Dots display.
Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images

More and more household objects have the capacity to connect to the internet, and televisions are high on that list. Some smart TVs allow people to connect directly with their streaming services of choice, while others include features like voice control. If convenience if your primary goal, there’s plenty to like here. But if you’re concerned about privacy, your smart TV might have some features that are less enticing.

A new article by Jack Morse at Mashable explores the privacy concerns connected to smart TVs, which go above and beyond recording their users with cameras. These concerns center around the automatic content recognition (ACR) feature. ACR, the article explains, analyzes your viewing and browsing history on the television to customize your user experience.

“[I]magine some ad executive standing over you ever time you turn on your TV, recording in minute detail everything you watch and for how long,” writes Morse — who goes on to note that some software manufacturers also sell that data to advertisers.

The good news is that ACR functionality can be disabled in most televisions without simply disconnecting the TV from the internet. The bad news is that it isn’t always intuitive — though the Mashable article does offer step-by-step instructions on how to do so for Vizio, Samsung and Roku, and points to a Consumer Reports article that covers other brands.

Smart TVs aren’t the only home electronics where privacy is a concern. Last year, Vox ran a report on how a number of internet-connected accessories like Google Home and Amazon Echo often record their owners’ conversations. But given the amount of time many people spend watching television — especially during the pandemic — it’s not hard to see why this is a concern for so many.

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