By: Brian D. Kahn and Alexandra R. Rambis
June 7, 2016
TV and video privacy concerns began decades ago and revolved around an individual’s video rental habits. Over time, as Blockbuster and corner video rental stores went away, they were soon replaced by video streaming services, such as those provided by Netflix, Hulu, and Vudu. The latest evolution of this technology is the newest generation of Smart TVs, which are now equipped with built in “digital assistants,” similar to Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa device. These “digital assistants” can offer features such as voice, face and gesture recognition. However, in order to provide such services, these Smart TVs must be constantly listening or watching users, which has sparked serious concerns regarding consumer privacy.
Some of the information collected by Smart TVs, such as channels watched or videos rented and accessed, is data we, as consumers, expected these TVs to have collected. Yet many Smart TVs also collect very personal information including a user’s zip code, email address, IP address, and for Smart TVs that provide voice, face or gesture recognition, they even collect voice and video recordings of users. Further, Smart TVs that are connected to an individual’s Wi-Fi network will extract data from any other devices that are also connected to that network, which may include personal files located on a computer, website history on a computer or cell phone, and even text messages. Additionally, this information can be collected by these Smart TVs irrespective of whether the TV or functionality has been turned on or off.