Most smart TVs connected to the Internet do not track your viewing habits by default. But the 10 million Vizio smart TVs sold so far will automatically track viewing habits and share information with advertisers from the get-go unless customers disable the option.
So what data does Vizio collect? The smart TVs can track data related to whatever TV programming and related commercials you’re watching—whether it’s the latest episode of “The Walking Dead” or Monday Night Football—and link such data with the time, date, channel, and TV service provider. Vizio will also track whether you view TV programs live or later on.
All that viewing habit information gets linked to the IP address that serves as a unique identifier for Internet-connected devices using the same Wi-Fi router. That IP address serves as the focal point for Vizio’s advertiser partners to reach you—and not just on your smart TV.
Of course, anyone who does not want their Vizio smart TV constantly tracking their programming preferences for advertisers and data analytics companies can turn off the Smart Interactivity option. But requiring customers to opt-out of a feature pushed on them by default certainly represents the sneakier of choices available to companies.
Jeremy Hsu has been working as a science and technology journalist in New York City since 2008. He has written on subjects as diverse as supercomputing and wearable electronics for IEEE Spectrum. When he’s not trying to wrap his head around the latest quantum computing news for Spectrum, he also contributes to a variety of publications such as Scientific American, Discover, Popular Science, and others. He is a graduate of New York University’s Science, Health & Environmental Reporting Program.