What do the studies suggest?
A new study done by Imperial College London and Northeastern University shows that Smart TVs from various brands, including LG and Samsung are sharing user data with different companies. They could be doing so when they are lying idle. Amazon’s FireTV and Roku are also sending out location information as well as IP addresses with advertisers.
Interestingly, the data sent by the TV was independent of the fact that they were Netflix users or not. The data collection was not limited to Smart TVs. Other smart devices like cameras and speakers were also found to be snooping on users. Microsoft and Spotify were amongst the third-party advertisers that gained access to user data.
Another study confirms the findings
In another independent study, researchers from Princeton University found that apps on FireTV and Roku were involved in transmitting “specific user identifiers” to third party advertisers.
This situation becomes dire considering that 68% of American households have a connected device which includes external dongle-like hardware like Amazon FireTV stick and Roku. These devices are using content recognition technology to monitor what the users are watching, which helps them in targeting their advertisements more efficiently. This type of TV advertising now dominates 50% of all digital ads.
The study done by Northeastern University is the largest published research in this area that included about 81 devices. The study proved that Akamai, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft were contacted most frequently by these devices.
Northeastern University computer scientist David Choffnes, who was one of the authors of the paper wrote,
“Amazon is contacted by almost half the devices in our tests, which stands out because [this means] Amazon can infer a lot of information about what you’re doing with different devices in your home, including those they don’t manufacture.”
He said that these services also keep track of their competition. They are aware of the location of the users and may even have an idea about when the user is in the home or outside. The data was encrypted because of which the researchers were not able to decipher its exact content. Facebook clarified that apps and devices commonly send data back to integrated third-party services.