Smart TV Security and Privacy Risks

Smart TV Security Privacy

Smart TV Security Risks – Cameras and microphones present security and privacy risks for smart TVs and other internet of things (IoT) devices

Smart TV security and privacy risks are just as huge at their screen sizes. Around one third of TVs in US households are smart TVs – connected to the internet – and monitoring your personal viewing habits and sometimes recording you in your home. The number of smart TVs is growing extensively every year. The newest smart TVs offer cameras and microphones so we can video chat and video conference with others. However, built in cameras and microphones present security and privacy risks for smart TVs and other internet of things (IoT) devices.

Your smart TV can do almost everything your laptop can, including spying on you.

Smart TV security risks are very real. In its simplest form, smart TVs collect information about you even if the device does not have a microphone or camera. If your smart TV uses voice commands, you should already be fearful of this potential personal privacy threat. Today’s smart TVs offer come with security and privacy risks that most of us never think could come from a TV. These TVs are not just outputting information; they are taking in, storing and sending information to third parties. What are they taking in you might ask? Smart TVs are recording what channels you watch, what shows you watch, the time you view them, and if you recorded the content. Most threating to your personal privacy, newer smart TVs are recording voice and video if the smart TV is equipped with a microphone or camera. Today’s smart TVs are taking in all this data like a sponge and your data is being sold.

Smart TVs Farm Your Data

Why do you think you smart TVs are so inexpensive? Yes, the cost of technology and large format LED screens is coming down every year, but they are making money selling your data and data is big business. Smart TVs transmit information to television content providers and TV networks relating to what you are watching. These networks and affiliates sell the highest rated slots to the highest paying advertisers who also use your viewing habits to tailor their advertisements for the best rate of return on sales. It’s all about violation of your privacy to understand more about you to sell you more merchandise. It’s about money, and your privacy is at risk.

Remember the Nielson ratings? Many years ago Nielson would call households and collect information on what you were watching. They had various ways to entice people to participate in their phone surveys, but had no real way to verify if what you told them you were watch was actually the shows you were watching and if so for how long you were watching it. Well since the advent of TV top cable boxes, and now with smart TVs, this information is collected from millions in real-time. That’s right, what you watch is being recorded and sent to media survey companies and many other companies interested in this data, in real-time, while you are watching it. In fact some TVs with microphones and cameras are recording voice and data at times when you don’t realize it.
Is this data collection legal? Review Samsung’s privacy policy for the U.S.

The privacy policy is extensive and there are many very concerning aspects of this privacy policy. It should be noted that Samsung’s smart TV privacy policy is similar to many other smart TV manufacturers’ privacy policy, but the privacy policies vary greatly from country to county to comply with local laws. In one such country we found the following very concerning statement:

“Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition”

How to Stop Invasion of Privacy Through Your Smart TV

  • Research your smart TV before you purchase it. Read about ratings and security issues that your potential device may have.
  • Read your smart TV owner’s manual : With our hectic lifestyle of today’s world, many of us do not feel we have the time to read an owner’s manual. How difficult can it be to set up a TV we might ask. We Just take it out of the box and plug it into the wall, input the WiFi password so we can watch Netflix or stream sports, accept all the default settings just in time to watch our favorite show. We never learn all the features of our latest device and we may be putting our security and privacy at risk. Read your owner’s manual, and even better, search for your smart TV model online and read about additional security information.
  • Read and understand your smart TV privacy policy: Do you read and understand your computer software EULA and user manual privacy policy’s? Not likely, and smart TVs are no exception. Be careful and read your smart TVs privacy policies. Also understand that most smart TV privacy policies specifically exclude privacy policy related to third party applications installed on your smart TV. For example, while your smart TV manufacturer may have a good policy of sharing and collecting data collected through their device, a third party application such as Google, Amazon or Netflix, for example, may have their own privacy polices that your smart TV manufacturer has no control over.
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Smart TV Security Settings

Carefully review your smart TVs settings and opt for the most restricted settings. Understand your smart TV settings and change them to protect you privacy. Below are some settings to focus on to reduce security risk and privacy intrusion. Note that not all smart TVs have microphones or cameras installed and all TV settings differ from model to model.

  • Turn off data sharing in the TV settings
  • Turn off the TVs microphone in the TV settings (if one is installed)
  • Turn off the smart TVs camera (if one is installed)
  • Physically block your TVs camera (if one is installed.) This can be accomplished by tape or other means. Most of us have done this on our laptop cameras to protect our privacy on those devices
  • Do not connect your smart TV to the internet. Ultimately you can opt not to connect your smart TV to the internet. Understand, however, that doing so will severely limit the functionality of the TV and in essence will eliminate any benefit of having a smart TV

Keep in mind that by turning off your microphone and camera in the TV settings may appear to render your microphone or camera inoperative. But do we know for sure? It may only render the use of the camera and microphone for your use inoperable, but may still be in standby mode to record and transmit information on your usage of the device. We can never be sure. So exercise on the side of caution when setting up and using your smart TV.

Hackers and viruses can also get into your unprotected smart TV and then into your router.