Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Vizio Sells “Highly-Specific Viewing Data” to Advertisers

Julia Angwin, ProPublica:

Vizio’s technology works by analyzing snippets of the shows you’re watching, whether on traditional television or streaming Internet services such as Netflix. Vizio determines the date, time, channel of programs — as well as whether you watched them live or recorded. The viewing patterns are then connected your IP address – the Internet address that can be used to identify every device in a home, from your TV to a phone.

IP addresses can increasingly be linked to individuals. Data broker Experian, for instance, offers a “data enrichment” service that provide “hundreds of attributes” such as age, profession and “wealth indicators” tied to a particular IP address.

This is hugely disappointing. I’m casually in the market for a television, and Vizio’s seem to offer the best value for money; this news makes me seriously reconsider.

All of Vizio’s on-TV apps — like those for Netflix and YouTube — appear to be affected by this, as well as live television programming. Vizio has instructions on how to opt out of “Smart Interactivity”, as they euphemistically dub this, on their website.

Update: Or you could simply not connect your TV to the internet, as Josh Calvetti points out.