Your Smart TV can spy on you: Here’s how to stop it

Smart TVs are one of the results of the smart home revolution. With a smart TV, you get the ability to stream content right into your living room. However, just like smartphones, your smart TV could also be tracking, storing or even sharing your data. You can end this, if you know how to change the smart TV privacy settings.

change smart TV privacy settings

mohamed_hassan / Pixabay

How smart TVs track you

Smart TVs come with many benefits, such as free live programming, 4K HDR options device integration, and more. But, like everything else, it has a drawback as well, and that is breaching your privacy.

Similar to how smartphones keep tabs on your internet activities, smart TVs are also known to record your viewing habits. This data is helpful for the marketers and content providers, and allows them to design content and target ads that interest you the most. Not just the TVs, but the third-party apps that work on the TVs also collect user data.

Such concerns have gotten a lot of media attention lately, thanks to a recent warning from the FBI. The agency warned that smart TVs could be hacked as well, and that many such devices have built-in cameras.

“[A] television can also be a gateway for hackers to come into your home. A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router,” FBI said in its report.

One major tool that TV makers use to track your viewing habits is ACR (Automatic Content Recognition). It is software that recognizes what you are watching. This software does its job irrespective of you using any app or any third-party devices to plug into your TV, such as a cable box, Xbox or PlayStation. ACR transfers the data to the TV maker, or to its partners or both.

As said above, this data is then used for targeting ads or recommending other shows to you. A good thing is that you can stop (or at least limit) all this, if you know how to change the smart TV privacy settings.

How to change smart TV privacy settings

Different smart TVs have different settings. Thus, detailed below is the process to change privacy settings in the most popular smart TVs currently on the market.

Amazon Fire TV

To change the privacy settings:

  1. Go to Settings > Preferences > Privacy Settings.
  2. Select Device Usage Data and turn it off.
  3. Go to App Usage Data and turn it off.
  4. Select Internet-based Ads and turn it off as well.

A few Fire TVs may capture what you are viewing with an antenna as well. To protect yourself from such snooping, go to Over-the-air data and turn it off.

Google Android TV

To change smart TV privacy settings on Android TV:

  1. Go to settings and scroll down to a section, called Personal.
  2. Click on Usage and diagnostics, and ensure that the tab is turned off.

For managing other data Google has on you, such as your search history, YouTube history and more, visit myactivity.google.com.

Roku

To disable data monitoring on Roku:

  1. Open Settings and go to Privacy.
  2. Check the box Limit ad tracking.
  3. Go to the tab, called Smart TV experience, and uncheck both the options. This will disable ACR.

LG smart TVs

To control LG smart TVs:

  1. From the Settings select General.
  2. Go to the AI Service and uncheck AI Recommendation. This will turn off recommendations, but will also stop the TV from tracking usage data.
  3. Go to About this TV and select User agreements. If you wish to use Alexa or Google Assistant, you need to agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Voice Information. To limit ACR you need to uncheck Interest-Based Advertisement, Live Plus and Viewing Information.
  4. For more privacy go to Additional Settings and turn off Cookies. This will ensure that ads don’t repeat as much.

Samsung Smart TVs

To disable ACR:

  1. Open Settings > Support > Terms & Policy.
  2. Select Viewing Information Services, and uncheck the “I agree” box to turn off ACR.
  3. To turn off personalized ads go to Interest-Based Advertisements Service Privacy Notice and uncheck the required boxes.

Sony smart TVs

To change the privacy settings:

  1. Go to Settings and scroll down to Initial setup.
  2. Now go through the privacy policy, and check or uncheck the boxes to opt out of the advertisements, content recommendations and more.

Vizio smart TVs

To disable ACR and limit data collection by Vizio smart TVs:

  1. Go to Settings > System > Reset & Admin.
  2. Go to the Viewing Data and turn it Off.

It must be noted that even after you change the smart TV privacy settings, a few smart TVs may still be able to monitor some of your activity. Nevertheless, changing such settings do give you an added level of privacy protection. The only assured way to get a totally private experience is to disable your TV’s internet connection.

You can refer to the below video as well:



About the Author

Aman Jain
Aman is MBA (Finance) with an experience on both Marketing and Finance side. He has worked as a Risk Analyst for AIR Worldwide, and is currently leading VeRa FinServ, a Financial Research firm. Favorite pastimes include watching science fiction movies, reviewing tech gadgets, playing PC games and cricket. - Email him at amanjain@valuewalk.com