Vizio Smart Tv Sells Your Data: How To Turn Off Their User Tracking


According to a report by ProPublica, the flat screen television manufacturer VIZIO has recently updated the Privacy Policy for their line of smart TVs. A significant change to the policy states that “As of October 31, 2015, VIZIO will share Viewing Data, together with the IP address associated with the corresponding VIZIO television...with third parties. These third parties may combine this information with other information about devices associated with that IP address, in order to customize the advertisements.” The advertisements would be deployed on all user devices associated with the IP address, including smartphones and tablets. One of the notable aspects of this policy change is that “those third parties may combine this information with other information…associated with that IP address,” a provision which leaves the degree of customer privacy to the whims of unnamed third party companies.

An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a unique numerical label assigned to every device on a network to identify particular users. The same way that a street address identifies the location of your home, an IP address identifies your computer’s location on the internet. As per the original report, while technically an IP address is a non-identifiable piece of information, there are marketing and analytics companies which possess repositories of demographic information associated with static IP addresses: “IP addresses can increasingly be linked to individuals. Data broker Experian, for instance, offers a “data enrichment” service that provides “hundreds of attributes” such as age, profession and “wealth indicators” tied to a particular IP address.” 

The VIZIO feature which tracks users' viewing habits is called Smart Interactivity and is enabled in VIZIO TVs by default – it is an opt-out rather than an opt-in feature. As has been widely discussed in reports of the privacy incursions committed by Windows 10, having significant data sharing features turned on by default is problematic, placing the onus on users to navigate a new product to amend a surreptitious liability. 

Owners of VIZIO smart TVs can turn off this feature directly through their TV:

  1. Press the Menu button on your remote control.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. Highlight Smart Interactivity.
  4. Press the right arrow to switch the setting to Off.

To turn off Smart Interactivity through the VIZIO Plus TV feature:

  1. Press the Menu button on your remote control or open the HDTV Settings app.
  2. Select System.
  3. Select Reset & Admin.
  4. Highlight Smart Interactivity.
  5. Press the right arrow to switch the setting to Off.