For months the public worried about the data collected by companies that offer free services on the Internet such as Facebook and Twitter. However, a new investigation by The New York Times found that smart TVs are also getting information about users.
According to the US newspaper, different companies have implemented tools that allow them to know the contents that users prefer to watch on TVs connected to the Internet. These data are then used to send personalized advertising to other devices, such as phones and tablets. The ethical and moral problem is that most of this information is obtained without the user’s knowledge.
Samba TV is the most mentioned company in the research, this company studies the television tastes of its users to be able to recommend the ideal shows, adapted to their preferences. But, according to the NYT, the firm has collected information from 13.5 million Smart TV users in the US.
The company in question signed agreements with giants in the manufacture of televisions such as Sony, Sharp, TCL and Philips to place their software within some of their equipment. Once the devices are configured for their first use, a warning informs the user about the presence of Samba TV on their devices.
Once again, the user accepted the conditions
The excuse of the software is that it can help the viewer to decide what to see in a much simpler way, especially considering that there is now an infinity of content available. However, for experts, this warning is insufficient because it does not specify the true nature of the data collection. If one takes into account that around 90% of those consulted agree to use the software, the scale of the problem becomes more important.
According to the American media, Samba TV cannot only record everything the user sees on its screen but also tracks video games, personal tastes, schedules and even political preferences when viewing presidential debates. All this without the user knowing.
For its part, the company has defended itself by saying that they do not sell the information of users to advertisers, but that they pay the company to direct commercial products seen during advertising, to other devices within the home. “Each version has identified that we use technology to recognize what is displayed on the screen and create benefits for both the consumer and our company, its partners and advertisers, ” Bill Badi, a company spokesperson, told NYT.
Although perfectly legal, this new revelation revives the debate on privacy in the times of big data. In the case of Facebook and Twitter, the collection of information could even be understood because they are free platforms, but the same does not happen with televisions whose price is usually high and whose survival does not depend on the private information of users.