Ten Million Vizios Are Tracking Your Viewing Habits
Viz Brother is watching you.
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Vizio sells more TVs in the U.S. every year than any other manufacturer, and every single one of them is a smart TV, equipped with the company's Vizio Internet Apps (VIA or VIA Plus) smart platform. On paper, it's an awesome way to deliver value to as many consumers as possible.
But it's also a little scary, considering the company recently revealed a tracking algorithm—called "Smart Interactivity"—that analyzes your viewing habits and passes the data/ on to advertisers.
According to the brainy folks at Ars Technica, Vizio is sharing "customers' non-personal identifiable information" with content partners. The result? Targeted ads all over your Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant apps. And unlike other manufacturers, Vizio doesn't allow you to opt-out from the get go.
It's not just binge-watchers who are being watched. AT's Julia Angwin elaborates:
"Vizio’s technology works by analyzing snippets of the shows you’re watching, whether on traditional television or streaming Internet services such as Netflix. [...] The viewing patterns are then connected your IP address, the Internet address that can be used to identify every device in a home from your TV to a phone."
In other words, these ads can propagate within apps on devices aside from your Vizio TV, including your phone, tablet, or laptop.
While this sort of tailored advertising isn't surprising in 2015, it's poor form not to at least ask viewers whether they want to participate in this sort of surveillance. On the other hand, the system isn't strictly designed to maximize advertising revenue. According to Vizio, the Smart Interactivity function recognizes the content you're watching and tailors the smart experience to your tastes.
Fortunately, it isn't very hard to turn this function off. Simply find either "Settings" or "System" in your menu, then look for "Smart Interactivity" either standing alone or nestled within another menu called "Reset & Admin" (depending on which version of VIA your TV supports).
From there, you can simply turn the feature off. Just remember that any time you reset your TV or run the initial setup routine, it'll be back on again.