Smart TV Privacy: How to Disable TV Data Collection

You knew that websites can track you. But did you know your smart TV is probably doing the same thing? Most modern TVs are designed to monitor what you watch and report that information to companies. Fortunately, you can protect your privacy while watching TV. Here’s how to disable monitoring software on smart TVs.

The exact type of information that your TV monitors varies by manufacturer and model. (For a general summary of the issue, refer to this somewhat bombastic Daily Mail article.) But most smart TVs collect some type of information about what you watch. They then use their Internet connections to forward it, usually to companies that have contracted with the TV manufacturer to get it.

The data is used most obviously to collect information about viewing trends and serve ads. But it could also reveal a lot of private information about you, such as your interests and your daily schedule. The fact that the software that makes this possible is usually enabled by default makes it even more of a privacy threat.

Disable Data Collection on Smart TVs

The good news is that disabling the “spying” features on smart TVs is pretty simple. Here are instructions, listed according to TV manufacturer:

  • Samsung: Access your TV’s configuration menu (called Smart Hub), then find the Terms & Policy menu. There, disable SyncPlus Marketing and voice recognition, and opt out of the Yahoo! privacy policy.
  • LG: Under Settings, choose Options, then select Live Plus and turn this feature off.
  • Vizio: Under system settings, navigate to the Reset & Admin menu, then select the Smart Interactivity feature and turn it off.

The caveat to disabling TV monitoring features in this way is that you have to take the company’s word for it that turning off the features actually stops all data collection. No one has yet performed deep analysis of the data that smart TVs upload when their monitoring functions are disabled. Without that, it’s not possible to confirm that no data is shared when the TV is told not to.

For that reason, if you’re really worried about security, you should disconnect your TV from the Internet altogether by pulling the ethernet plug or blocking its wifi receiver from your router. But cutting off the Internet comes with obvious drawbacks. If you need your TV to be online, disabling the anti-privacy features listed above will at least give you some assurance of privacy and anonymity while watching TV.

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