Your smart TV could be spying on you?

LG전자, ‘CES 2014 혁신상’ 15개 수상

How ironic that there is an article suggesting we should stop trying to make the TV smart.

From friends on Facebook, it seems clear LG smart TVs are spying on their owners.

I found a rather creepy corporate video advertising their data collection practices to potential advertisers. It’s quite long but a sample of their claims are as follows:

LG Smart Ad analyses users favourite programs, online behaviour, search keywords and other information to offer relevant ads to target audiences. For example, LG Smart Ad can feature sharp suits to men, or alluring cosmetics and fragrances to women.
Furthermore, LG Smart Ad offers useful and various advertising performance reports. That live broadcasting ads cannot. To accurately identify actual advertising effectiveness.

In fact, there is an option in the system settings called “Collection of watching info:” which is set ON by default.  This setting requires the user to scroll down to see it and, unlike most other settings, contains no “balloon help” to describe what it does.

At this point, I decided to do some traffic analysis to see what was being sent.  It turns out that viewing information appears to be being sent regardless of whether this option is set to On or Off.

I kind of thought this kind of thing was going to happen. Although LG’s response is frankly shameful. Having a always on LAN connection is just too tempting for these big companies. With my Toshiba smart TV, I had to read a long EULA before I could use the TV, I had a read of most of it and there was some parts about relaying information back to Toshiba. The TV channel viewing I don’t really care too much about because 90% of the time I’m watching XBMC not live TV. What is worrying however is sending the details of a USB or mass storage device’s details.

I made an even more disturbing find within the packet data dumps.  I noticed filenames were being posted to LG’s servers and that these filenames were ones stored on my external USB hard drive.  To demonstrate this, I created a mock avi file and copied it to a USB stick.

This is out of order and got to be an invasion of privacy…

With that in mind, would you trust them with cameras and microphones?

Good pointer for a couple of projects I’m working on including Perceptive Media and the mentioned here and there iot Signals project. Back to the wired piece

Bottomline: The TV ecosystem is waiting to be created. But consumer electronics companies won’t be the ones to create it.

This will take more than hardware expertise. It will require a service that controls the consumer device. Most importantly, it will require mutually beneficial relationships and data exchange between the service provider and content providers to enable a new business model for video distribution.

I certainly agree with the first part… consumer electronics don’t get it, and this LG spying story proves this.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

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