The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it has reached a settlement with Vizio, which it alleged misled customers about what data its smart TVs were collecting.
Vizio’s “Smart Interactivity” feature, which the company said “enables program offers and suggestions.” was the cornerstone of the FTC lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Vizio began tracking consumers’ data in February 2014, on both new and older TV’s. The “Smart Interactivity” feature was a cover for a technology called ACR, which tracks viewing data “second-by-second,” while the TV settings offered no explanation about what that feature was actually doing.
The most concerning issue was with the tracked data and IP addresses. The information was processed in such a way that it enabled advertisers to track behavior across devices, which allowed advertisers to see for instance whether a consumer viewed a television program after being exposed to an online ad for the program.
In a statement, Vizio said it was now “leading the way” on getting consumer consent for data collection:
‘Even before today’s resolution was announced, VIZIO had addressed the concerns by updating online and onscreen disclosures. For example, the FTC Complaint acknowledged that VIZIO has sent onscreen notifications informing users about viewing data collection, reminding users of the option to turn this feature off or on, and educating users about the purpose and nature of its viewing data program.’
Vizio has agreed to pay $2.2 million in penalties, including $1.5 million to the FTC and $1 million to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, with $300,000 suspended.
Why even bother omitting this stuff, they may as well just inform consumers, few people scroll through any of this stuff and read it, so VIZIO end up losing more than they would have lost, from consumers disabling the feature had they been informed properly.