VIZIO to pay $2.2 million after collecting viewing histories without users’ consent

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VIZIO is one of the largest manufactures and sellers of internet-connected “smart” televisions.  Recently VIZIO has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General that it installed software on its TVs to collect viewing data on 11 million consumer TVs without consumers’ knowledge or consent.

Federal court order requires VIZIO to prominently disclose and obtain affirmative consent for its data collection and sharing practices.  It also prohibits misrepresentations about the privacy, security, or confidentiality of consumer information they collect.  VIZIO is required to delete data collected before March 1, 2016, and to implement a comprehensive data privacy program.

According to the agencies’ complaint, starting in Feb. 2014, VIZIO and another affiliated company manufactured VIZIO smart TVs that capture second-by-second information about the video displayed on the smart TV.  This includes video from cable, broadband, set-top box, DVD, over-the-air broadcasts, and streaming devices.

VIZIO also facilitated adding specific demographic information to the viewing data.  Such as sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, etc., the agencies allege.  According to the complaint, VIZIO then sold the information to third parties, who then used it for various purposes, including targeting advertising to consumers across devices.

VIZIO has a “Smart Interactivity” feature that “enables program offers and suggestions” but did not inform consumers that the settings also allowed the collection of consumers’ viewing data.  The complaint alleges that VIZIO’s data tracking was unfair and in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act and New Jersey consumer protection laws.

The $2.2 million payment by VIZIO includes a payment of $1.5 million to the FTC and $1 million to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, with $300,000 of that amount suspended.

The Commission vote approving the complaint and proposed order was 3-0, with Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen issuing a concurring statement. The FTC filed the complaint and order in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

You can see the entire report here.

Source: Federal Trade Commission

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