That smart TV you have in your living room may not have been such a smart purchase after all when it comes to privacy, according to a new report. Certain TV models made by such iconic brands as Samsung, Hisense, Hitachi, Insignia, Philips, RCA, and Sharp and TCL can be easily hacked, according to Consumer Reports.
The reason those TVs are most susceptible to security and privacy flaws is because of vulnerabilities in the applications used with them, like the Roku Ultra and its smart-TV platform, the publication reports.
Report: Sony, Vizio, Samsung and other TVs have some big security flaws
This is what Consumer Reports says after a security analysis:
We found that a relatively unsophisticated hacker could change channels, play offensive content, or crank up the volume, which might be deeply unsettling to someone who didn’t understand what was happening. This could be done over the web, from thousands of miles away. (These vulnerabilities would not allow a hacker to spy on the user or steal information.)
So although your personal data may be safe, what could take place is no less than an intrusion of privacy, which is always a cause for concern.
In February 2017, the FTC settled a case against Vizio in which the TV manufacturer agreed to pay $2.2 million for sifting consumer data without telling them. As a result, the company was required to “prominently disclose and obtain affirmative express consent” for collecting people’s data and sharing it, according to a summary of the case written by Willkie Farr & Gallagher, a high-profile law firm that specializes in such cases.
That’s because gathering people’s information — the types of shows they watch, what time they watch it and how long they watch — is very valuable to advertisers. As a result, the TV manufacturers can bundle your information up and sell it in a marketplace where you — the consumer — have become the product.
We’ve written about how today’s vehicles are basically spying on you, and how a popular flashlight app drew the ire of the FTC for similar practices, but this is the first report that goes into detail about what kinds of vulnerabilities are found in many of our favorite televisions.
“For years, consumers have had their behavior tracked when they’re online or using their smartphones,” Justin Brookman, director of privacy and technology at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports, said. “But I don’t think a lot of people expect their television to be watching what they do.”
These were the TVs tested by Consumer Reports
- The Samsung UN49MU8000, which uses the company’s Tizen platform
- The LG 49UJ7700, which utilizes LG’s webOS system.
- The TCL 55P605uses the Roku system as do many brands.
- The Sony XBR-49X800Euses Google’s Android TV, as does LeEco and Sharp.
- The Vizio P55-E1 SmartCast TV that Consumer Reports tested used the Chromecast platform.
Money expert Clark Howard has talked about privacy issues before, saying even way back in 2013 that “We’re still in frontier days here…Just know that some technology — whether it’s a free app or an expensive smart TV — is likely spying on you.”