Are Smart TVs Invading Our Privacy?

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on July 13, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The simple answer to that is, yes. But to what extent? And do we care?

Recently, two Democrat senators sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting the agency to investigate privacy issues surrounding smart TVs, which are TVs that are connected to the internet. We already learned through the Vizio investigation that these Trojan horse TVs are capable of gathering all sorts of information. It is unclear, however, if the TV manufacturers are actually gathering, processing, and/or selling this information.

All Bark and No Bite?

Years back, Congress passed laws that prohibited satellite and cable companies from collecting this sort of data, but no laws have been passed regarding internet connectivity. To date, the only laws on the books that can be used to go after smart TV manufacturers would be rather vague, such as unfair and deceptive business practices. And the FTC letter is not asking for new laws, just an investigation. So it's possible these Senators are all bark and no bite, and there will be no protection on Internet enabled devices.

Privacy Shmivacy

This is just the latest in a string of privacy issues surrounding tech devices. In the Vizio lawsuit, over 11 million televisions collected and sold information about the user's IP address, zip code, and shows watched, without consent. In a Bose wireless headset lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed Bose used an app to track the music, podcasts, and other audio users listened to, and then sold that information without permission. And it goes past product technology, with Facebook's latest privacy scandal.

In today's world, it seems privacy is becoming a thing of the past. With everyone living out loud via social media, and opting into privacy agreements on app that are never read, it will grow increasingly more difficult to decide a person's reasonable expectation of privacy, which is the threshold of proof in most of these lawsuits. Until this entire concept of privacy is addressed in the Modern Technology Era, your best protection may be old-fashioned. You may want to think about putting a post-it over that work camera lens ...

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