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FTC slams Vizio with fat fine for spying on 11 million TV viewers

by Todd Haselton | February 6, 2017February 6, 2017 12:30 pm PDT

The FTC announced on Monday that it has settled with Vizio for spying on owners of the company’s television sets. Vizio will pay a $2.2 million fine as part of the settlement.

The FTC said Vizio collected data from 11 million smart TV sets. The FTC originally filed its complaint against Vizio back in 2014 after it discovered that Vizio’s TVs were collecting and sending viewer data back to the company.  The FTC said Vizio TVs were capable of capturing “second-by-second information about video displayed on the smart TV, including video from consumer cable, broadband, set-top box, DVD, over-the-air broadcasts, and streaming devices.”

“In addition, VIZIO facilitated appending specific demographic information to the viewing data, such as sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value,” the FTC said. “VIZIO sold this information to third parties, who used it for various purposes, including targeting advertising to consumers across devices, according to the complaint.”

As part of the settlement, Vizio is no longer allowed to collect data without user authorization. Vizio also has to “prominently disclose their data collection and sharing practices” when it gets permission from users and has to delete everything that it has already stored. The FTC said Vizio also has to create a new privacy program.

VIZIO is pleased to reach this resolution with the FTC and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. Going forward, this resolution sets a new standard for best industry privacy practices for the collection and analysis of data collected from today’s internet-connected televisions and other home devices,” Vizio general counsel Jerry Huang said. “The ACR program never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information, and the Commission did not allege or contend otherwise.  Instead, as the Complaint notes, the practices challenged by the government related only to the use of viewing data in the ‘aggregate’ to create summary reports measuring viewing audiences or behaviors.”

Vizio isn’t the only company accused of collecting user data. Samsung came under similar scrutiny recently after it was discovered that its TVs were listening in on users.

FTC FTC (2)

Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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