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Smart TV data is sensitive

News, 08 February 2017
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NEW YORK: Smart TV manufacturers need to get consumers' consent before collecting data on their viewing habits, the Federal Trade Commission has said, following the settlement of complaint it brought against Vizio.

Vizio was fined $2.2m over its data collection practices. The FTC alleged that its smart TVs captured information about all video displayed, including that from consumer cable, broadband, set-top box, DVD, over-the-air broadcasts, and streaming devices.

Specifically, its "Smart Interactivity" feature, which promises program offers and suggestions, failed to inform consumers that the settings also enabled the collection of their viewing data.

Further, it said that Vizio then added specific demographic information to the viewing data, such as sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value, before selling this information to third parties to use for targeting advertising to consumers across devices.

Vizio denied ever matching viewing data with any personally identifiable information.

As well as paying a fine, it is required to delete data collected before March 1 2016 and to "obtain affirmative express consent" for future data collection and sharing practices.

"In our complaint, we have alleged that TV viewing information is sensitive data that requires an opt-in for collection and sharing, much like other categories of sensitive information including health and financial information, children's information and precise geolocation," FTC attorney Kevin Moriarty told AdExchanger.

"This settlement … makes clear that smart-TV makers should get people's consent before collecting and sharing television viewing information," he added in a blog post.

While Vizio's case has been resolved, those companies that bought its data, including WPP Group, Interpublic Group, Tapad, Xaxis, TubeMogul and Visible World, face separate legal actions, the outcome of which will depend on how judges interpret the Video Privacy Protection Act.

Data sourced from FTC, AdExchanger; additional content by Warc staff

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