Smart TVs are watching you, which shares your private data most? Samsung, LG, Sony and more
Smart TVs are great for watching catch-up TV or enjoying the myriad cat videos YouTube has to offer, on the big screen. But connecting to the web means there's yet another point where companies can track you and how you live.
To be clear smart TVs aren't literally watching you through their built-in cameras, we hope. What they are doing is tracking how you use the TV and sharing that data. This can be a good thing because it allows recommendations to be better tailored to your tastes.
But it can also be bad as Which? magazine found in a recent study where manufacturers were sharing full post codes of user's and children's names over the internet.
So who are the biggest culprits and what are they taking from you?
When you agree to the terms and conditions on your smart TV that automatically allows the manufacturer access to your personal user information.
Last year IT consultant Jason Huntley found that his LG smart TV was tracking him and his family. He found that his children's names had been sent over the internet, unencrypted for anyone to access, after being taken from a family video they watched on the TV.
Since that incident there has been an ongoing investigation by the Information Commissioner which has resulted in LG stopping tracking, temporarily at least. But who else is involved?
Terms and conditions
A good way to judge how important your information is to your TV manufacturer is the TV's reaction to your acceptance or denial of its terms and conditions.
Sony seems to be the best for this as it will still allow you full access to your TV and all its smart functions even if you turn down the terms and conditions.
LG is next in line as it stops you from accessing its apps only if you don’t agree with the T&Cs.
Samsung and Toshiba are the next worst culprits as they will shut off your smart TV access all together if you don't agree to let them virtually probe you. Panasonic stops use of any apps and even the web browser if you don't agree with its data sharing requirements.
If you do agree to the terms and conditions, how much do you get tracked?
By and large data used when tracking the viewer is encrypted before it's sent back to the servers. This means it's relatively well protected against falling into anyone else's hands, unless they're really set on getting your information.
Samsung is not so good here though. Which? magazine found that when the TV was turned on it immediately beamed the user's full location and postcode without even encrypting the information. Samsung claims the data is needed to operate the TV. But something that specific surely can't be required?
While LG has stopped tracking user data all together, after its investigation, it hasn't ruled out restarting data tracking in the future.
This is something that you've probably gotten used to on your smart TV. But have you noticed that the advertising is specifically aimed at you?
Samsung, LG, Panasonic and Toshiba all use a person's data to target adverts at them. There is an option to shut off targeted advertising, but the adverts themselves will still appear. While LG and Toshiba say this is standard practice one company doesn't agree.
Sony allows the users to turn adverts off altogether if they want to. This combined with its allowance of a person's denial of its T&Cs make it the most user friendly brand for controlling the sharing of data.
Since the Which? investigation Samsung, Panasonic and Toshiba are all meeting with the company to talk about the findings.