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By Eric Lieberman
Vizio, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and sellers of Internet-connected “smart” televisions, is agreeing to pay $2.2 million to settle a lawsuit after it was accused of secretly collecting customers’ viewing data and personal information.
The tech company installed software on its TVs to gather such data on “11 million consumer TVs without consumers’ knowledge or consent,” according to a statement released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which, along with the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General, issued the charges.
The TV manufacturer often promoted a “Smart Interactivity” feature, which would ostensibly offer tailored viewing suggestions. But the feature may never have existed, or at least may never have been available for the majority of consumers.
“Defendants have not provided any ‘program offers or suggestions’ or ‘program-related information’ for most televisions for more than two years,” the official lawsuit reads, meaning the purported function appears to be a fraudulent means of acquiring personal information.
Vizio would allegedly record second-by-second information about what the consumer was watching and through what medium, such as DVD, streaming devices, standard cable, or broadband. (RELATED: Former Employee Sues Uber, Says It’s Spying On Customers)
Aside from the choice of media, Vizio was also accused of gathering personal data like “sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value,” according to the FTC press release.
Since consumer tendencies are very valuable to other companies and organizations, Vizio would allegedly sell such data to third parties. (RELATED: FBI Is Allegedly Paying Geek Squad To Find Customer Child Porn)
Aside from the monetary retribution, Vizio is being forced by the federal court order to disclose all of its data collection and sharing practices and never misrepresent those procedures again.
The company must also delete data collected before March 1, 2016, and “implement a comprehensive data privacy program and biennial assessments of that program,” according to the FTC press release.
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