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Do not give up your privacy for cheap

Smart TV technology has come a long way. In the 2000s you used to sit in front of your TV sets for your favorite show. The show comes on and sometimes it cuts to a series of commercials before resuming and then again for another round. Four times in an hour show and twice during a 30 minutes show.

You remember that, right?

Those commercials made brands and advertisers a lot of money. The slots during prime time TV had the most eyeballs and even larger sums of money. As a viewer, you could only utter cuss words under your breath because all you could do was keep switching from one TV channel to another while the commercial break ended.

So, what changed?

Certainly, the wait times are over. You now have streaming and OTT platforms that let you watch your favorite movies and shows. Also, you have YouTube that lets you watch and play your favorite playlists. Things are good.

Although the smart TV manufacturers have made viewing distraction-free, they’ve embedded ad revenue models into their creation. How so? I’ve previously delved into why a dumb TV is better than your smart TV if you’re a privacy-conscious person. But let me indulge you.

TV manufacturers track user behavior

Yes! They do this in a variety of ways; for example, Vizio not only is the biggest vendor for smart TVs but also harvests viewer data. They have a built-in mechanism to personalize ads and also deliver them directly while you’re watching content.

There are “jump ads” that show during live television mostly towards the end about the premiere episode of a series that you can access by clicking the banner to an ott service, etc. 

The phenomenon is nothing new because in the start Samsung was known for its pop-up ads. Smart TVs are used to record any voice commands given to access your favorite content. But only if voice command was enabled. The data is sold to third parties and the rest is history.

The smart TV market is a lucrative one

No matter if it’s Samsung, Panasonic, or Vizio, the opportunity to make a profit off of it is huge. Smart media players, on the other hand, can be used to view streaming content. Simply plug in your HDMI cable and voila! It is a more private way without giving up your data.

Examples of these devices include:

  • Android-based Nvidia Shield TV media player
  • Xiaomi mi TV stick
  • Google Chromecast media player
  • Apple’s set-top box 
  • Roku media player

TV as an e-commerce tool

There is news about Roku that it has partnered with Walmart to show you ads. It offers the ability to the users to browse and make purchase decisions from their TV screens. The popup ads would display on your TV and you can click “OK” twice and your virtual order is placed. Any payment information is obtained through Roku’s platform (if any). So you don’t even have to input anything.

Oh, the ease.

Not clear though when the “shopping ads” or with what frequency they will pop up. Sure there may be risks but everyone’s doing it. Roku is already known for showing interactive pop-up commercials. A Redditor once said they were shown an unrelated popup ad to the content they were watching. Might be the implementation of the new ad feature.

What else does your smart TV know about you

Through the ACR technology that a smart TV possesses, it extracts information about you. The technology lets it collect data based on the content which is being played on your TV, your service provider, cable, broadcast, programs, and commercials. They also know how much time you’ve spent watching and whether you watched it live or later.

Additionally, they also have records of your IP address.

A cheaper alternative and ad-blocking DNS

You can decide to evade privacy invasion by using a CRT TV you can find in the nearest scrap yard or on eBay. but, yeah, that’s a long shot. Other than this, you can go use a secure DNS service with ad-blocking like quad9, next DNS, AdGuard, Open DNS, Cloudflare, etc. Moreover, configuring VPNs over a router such as ProtonVPN and Mullvad is your best bet to protect against malware and ads.

Learn about DNS in under 7 minutes.

Smart TVs are cheaper for a reason. Because they entail less privacy. They are counting on you to invest so they can benefit from your data which we all know is a commodity today. The (ACR) settings to turn off ads is present in smart TVs but they’re buried deep in the menu. Therefore, you can always disable ads. 

But the way smart TVs are built, they are tracking devices. They track your habits and collect data either way; your location and the apps you use. Check out this video on removing ads on your smart TV, if you can spare two minutes.

Usama A.

I author high-level technical content | XML, Techcomm, Software Documentation | Editor, Curator, Publisher | Lead Technical Writer, Connectors @ Securiti.ai

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