Smart TVs, Smart-Home Devices Sending Sensitive User Data To Third Parties

By Bill Galluccio

September 18, 2019

Smart TV brand fromLG and Samsung

A team of researchers from Northeastern University and Imperial College London found that many popular smart TVs and smart-home devices are secretly sending out sensitive user data to third-party companies and advertisers. The researchers tested 81 devices, including Samsung and LG televisions, Amazon’s FireTV, smart speakers, and video doorbells.

They found that the devices collect information such as your location and IP address, along with details about how and when you use the device. That data is then sent to third-parties such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Netflix, even if you do not have an account with those services.

“Amazon is contacted by almost half the devices in our tests, which stands out because [this means] Amazon can infer a lot of information about what you’re doing with different devices in your home, including those they don’t manufacture,” said David Choffnes, a computer scientist at Northeastern University and one of the paper’s authors. “They also can have a lot of visibility into what their competitors are doing.”

Netflix, Google, and Facebook issued separate statements to the Financial Times explaining that the data they collect is used to improve the product and their apps.

Customers who do not want to have their data sent to third parties may be out luck because many devices do not have the options to turn off that information sharing or make it very difficult to do so.

Photo: Getty Images

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