Smart televisions are sending data to third parties like advertisers and major tech companies, two separate studies revealed.
According to the Financial Times, researchers from Northeastern University and Imperial College London found several smart TVs, including those from popular brands Samsung and LG, as well as streaming dongles Roku and FireTV were sending data such as location and IP address to Netflix and third-party advertisers. Other smart devices that include speakers and cameras were sending users' data to “dozens of third parties,” including Microsoft and Spotify.
A separate smart TV study by Princeton University found that some Roku and FireTV apps were sending specific user identifiers to third parties, including Google.
The Northeastern University study, which was conducted on 81 different devices in both the US and UK, found “notable cases of information exposure,” with Amazon, Google, Akami, and Microsoft the most frequently contacted companies. Researchers did point out, however, that this is partly because these companies provide cloud and networking services for smart devices.
The team said third parties receive data such as device information, user locations, and possibly even when people are interacting with their TV. “So they might know when you’re home and when you’re not,” said Professor David Choffnes, a computer scientist at Northeastern University and one of the paper’s authors.
According to the Financial Times, Netflix said: “Information Netflix receives from smart TVs that are not signed in is confined to how Netflix performs and appears on screen. We do not receive any information about other applications or activity on smart TVs.”
Facebook said: “It’s common for devices and apps to send data to the third-party services that are integrated into them. This could, for example, include an app sending data to Facebook to create a login interface, or provide a Like button.”
Google commented that: “Like other publishers, smart TV app developers can use Google’s ad services to show ads against their content or measure the performance of ads. Depending on the user’s chosen preferences on the device and consents, the publisher may share data with Google that’s similar to data used for ads in apps or on the web. Depending on the device manufacturer or the app owner, data sent to Google could include user location, device type and what the user is watching within a specific app so they can be targeted with personalized advertising.”