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Vizio fined $2.2 million by the FTC for secretly collecting and selling owner information

Vizio has been fined $2.2 million by the Federal Trade Commission for "surreptitiously collecting details on viewers' watching habits." The company also agreed to delete all the data collected before March 1, 2016, and to get specific consent from users with a new privacy program.

Vizio's Smart Interactivity technology isn't much different from what other smart TV manufacturers use to find out exactly what you watch and when you watch it. The difference, according to ProPublica, stems from the way Vizio went about collecting it and what they did with it afterward.

For starters, Smart Interactivity is active and running unless you specifically opt out, and you're not told it's there or that opting out is even possible. Oddly enough, the instructions to tell you how to opt out have disappeared from Vizio's support site and have been replaced by a 404 error page. Thankfully, Vizio now has instructions available to show you how to turn off the setting on the TV.

Vizio was tracking everything it could.

While folks were watching TV, Vizio was tracking everything it could about the channels and amount of time viewers spent on them. They also collected your IP address. Standard stuff from the TV industry. But what they did next got them hauled into court by the FTC.

Vizio would work with "data brokers" — companies who only exist to collect data about people, connect it all together, and then sell it. They would use these data brokers to help them connect your IP address with information like your gender, age, income, and interests. They then sold this information to advertisers. The same advertisers other companies use who might already have your IP address from other products.

This makes for a nice tidy way to get a very good profile on who you are and what you do. Frankly, a $2.2 million fine isn't enough.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

32 Comments
  • Visio or Vizio, I'm confused.
  • Visio is a Microsoft product.
    Vizio is a television manufacturer.
  • Apparently, AC doesn't know the difference. Do they proofread their articles?
  • Hey I just met you
    And this is crazy
    But here's my number (F5)
    So refresh me, maybe?
  • They just corrected it. The whole article had Visio when it was first published.
  • These ' fines ' benefit who exactly o_0 they DELETE information they already benefited from whew big deal...next
  • As stated in the article, $2.2 Mill... Might as well been a good finger wagging.
  • Junk change.
  • The fine needs to be about 50X what it was. F this company.
  • Has le eco closed their deal with them and taken ownership? Also, yes, the amount of the fine is a joke.
  • Not as of 2 weeks ago. Good thing too, the way Leeco hemorrhages cash, this fine probably would've bankrupted them,.
  • Indeed, hardly a deterrent.
    And where's my check???
  • Yeah... Mine too. Who the **** gets the fine? Certainly not the people directly affected by it. Why would we benefit from someone benefiting off of us?
  • Let's be real, with today's technology we give away our personal privacy and there's nothing we can do about it. "They" control it.....All of it. We have no say in it. The big companies do as they please and little fines like this means nothing to them. It just makes it seem like the FTC is actually doing something.
  • Really depends for the first part, but I definitely agree with you on the last part
  • So if I have a Vizio TV and use it only to view content via Android TV (I don't have cable TV or use Vizio's native media apps), I assume that means they haven't collected any meaningful data about me beyond when the TV is on/off? I'll still cash the check if there's a class action suit, of course.
  • I read elsewhere that Vizio used software called Inscape to see everything that appears on the screen, regardless of the source. So, you should definitely cash the cheque if there's a lawsuit.
  • Russell is correct -> https://www.vizio.com/inscape If you never connected your TV to the internet you might be OK, but if you did I imagine they have your data.
  • Sonova b
  • Holy crap!!! No wonder they sold their TV's for cheeep. They were farming users!!! Good thing I just have a soundbar that can't go online!
  • Or can it?
  • So now I know why my friend keeps getting ads for blowup-dolls...!?!
  • ..."friend"
  • SAVAGE
  • No television that steals information should ever have been allowed to be sold in X country in the first place. Companies committing crimes because no one stopped them. It was there to be done and they did it. Data theft by tv manufacturers is long overdue to be outlawed, should've been done before the 1st one ever hit the shelf.
  • Wow smh. That fine should be in the billions and I need my check.
  • How many other companies are doing this? And why isn't it front-page news? People get upset when government does any sort of snooping, how is this not worse? At least the government doesn't sell me out to another company.
  • Ex Machina opened my eyes. Still very pissed about this.
  • Let's see: They made $100-150 million doing what they did. Yeah, a $2.2 million fine is a great deterrent.
  • And now why know why a Chineese company is trying to purchase them.
  • Stop
  • I wish whoever else is using my IP address would stop ordering Viagra and Rogain cuz those commercials suck and Im tired of watching the damn things.