Smart Interactivity in the year 2015

Recently I purchased a VIZIO E-Series 24” Class Razor LED™ Smart TV (for my office). Imagine my surprise when I walked out of the office for a few seconds and stepped back in and saw a firmware update (with a one minute timer alert displayed on the screen) regarding broadcast interactivity. If I had not stepped immediately back into my office — I may never have known that Smart Interactivity was turned on and that the firmware was updated without my permission.

smart interactivity


The Privacy Dagger

What intel does my Vizio TV collect?

By accessing and using VIZIO’s products and services I consented to their use and disclosure of any of my Personally Identifiable Information. Everything I submitted via their website, when I purchased and registered my new product, when I obtained the warranty, and what I watch and how I interact with my smart TV. My name, mailing address, phone number, email address, contact preferences, credit card information, and information about the product(s) I own are included.

They also collect anonymous information: such as my IP address, zip code, hardware and firmware version of my V.I.A. services capable product(s), which V.I.A. services I visit, MAC addresses, product model number(s), chipset IDs, and region and language settings. This so called anonymous intel also seeks out the presence of other devices connected to my local network, as well as the number of users along with the frequency of use of all VIZIO products and services. The data collection does not stop there. They also collect viewing information via *smart interactivity.

Some Anonymous Information may be associated with Personally identifiable information — Vizio Privacy Policy

Seriously, some anonymous info might be associated with Personally identifiable information? It appears to me that any anonymous information collected (in reality) is already associated with my personally identifiable information.

V.I.A. (VIZIO Internet Applications) Policy

Consent to Use of Collected Data. You agree that VIZIO and its third party providers of V.I.A. Services may collect and use technical, non-technical and related information, including but not limited to information about your use of the VIZIO Software, the V.I.A. Services, content viewed and attached peripherals, products or services purchased, that is gathered periodically to facilitate the provision of software updates, product support and other services to you, including additional or different V.I.A. Services related to the VIZIO Software and to verify compliance with the terms of this License Agreement. VIZIO and its third party providers of V.I.A. Services and/or other providers may use this information, as long as it is in a form that does not personally identify you, to improve our products or to provide services or technologies to you. – V.I.A. Policy

VIZIO may change the terms and conditions of the VIZIO Internet Applications (V.I.A.) Policy, VIZIO Privacy Policy and/or this V.I.A. Software License Agreement, at any time and without prior notice.

*Smart Interactivity

Do you remember the guy who was terrified of his new TV (after he read through a 46-page privacy policy)? Though his TV is much smarter than mine, my TV still creeps me out. Though I do not have a built-in camera with facial recognition or a microphone that features voice recognition, I still have smart interactivity.

Unfortunately, current law affords little privacy protection to so-called “third party records,” including email, telephone records, and data stored in “the cloud.” Much of the data captured and transmitted by my new TV would likely fall into this category. —Michael Price | Brennan Center for Justice

With smart interactivity, VIZIO can collect product information and trigger events based on that information. Some of the events may include pop-ups (on my screen) and they also track and collect intel related to smart interactivity. When this feature is enabled — they will collect specific viewing information, including but not limited to the identity of my broadcast provider, the television programs and commercials that I view (including time, data, channel) and whether I am viewing them in real time or time-shifted, and if I click on any advertisements. What does not limited to mean?

PII Protections

VIZIO states in their privacy policy that they maintain internal practices that help protect the security and confidentiality of PII data by limiting employee access. They also encrypt transmissions, their servers are protected by firewalls, and they use industry standard security technology (designed to prevent intrusion and unauthorized access). But, they do not guarantee that PII will not be disclosed to third parties for conditions beyond its control, such as third parties that circumvent security measures to unlawfully intercept or access the information. What does that mean?

Too many questions

For now, I’ve turned off Smart Interactivity. I do not use cable TV and only use three V.I.A. apps (Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube). Eventually I will get around to contacting VIZIO for answers to my questions. Do you have a Smart TV? Have you read the terms of use, the privacy policy, the V.I.A. policy, and any additional policies that may be included?

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