The spy in the living room: Your Smart TV knows more than you think


TV sets are part of the inventory of almost every living room – but they have long since ceased to be used only to play television programs from public and private broadcasters, and have become established as smart TVs thanks to their connection to the Internet and countless apps for multimedia players and browsers. Thanks to them, you no longer have to connect laptops to the TVs with a lot of content via HDMI cables, for example to watch films on Netflix, series on Amazon Prime Video or Youtube videos. But comfort comes at a price.

Because, as the Bundeskartellamt writes in the “Secondary investigation of smart TVs”, which comprises 252 pages, the smart TV manufacturers often violate applicable law: They collect personal usage data and evaluate it without the consent of the consumer.

The Bundeskartellamt had already launched the investigation in December 2017 and wanted to check whether the serious allegations that are repeatedly being made against smart TVs and their manufacturers have a hand. The result could be shattering for many smart TV users because the violations are far-reaching.

The data breaches by smart TV manufacturers

As the tech portal “Heise” reports, the devices collect “diverse personal electronic traces”, which include, for example, the television behavior of the users, the app use, the surfing and clicking behavior and also biometric data such as voice and cursor movements. The various contents would also be “recorded and evaluated”.

The investigation has also come to the conclusion that many of these data collections and evaluations are carried out by preinstalled apps and must first be switched off by the user in the settings. The information about these surveys and evaluations would also not be sufficiently communicated to the users and they would often not understand what conditions they agreed to when the devices were set up for the first time.



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