Is Your TV Tracking You? Here’s How to Tell — and Prevent It

Photo by igorstevanovic / Shutterstock.com

Perhaps you heard that Vizio agreed this week to pay $2.2 million to settle a federal lawsuit, which accused the smart-TV company of tracking its customers without their knowledge.

But you might not have heard the extent of customer information Vizio was collecting and sharing. It was enough to make me want to rip my smart TV — a Vizio — out of the wall. Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary, as you can disable a TV’s tracking features if you know which settings to change.

Below, we’ve broken down the steps to disabling tracking technology — formally known as “automated content recognition,” or “ACR” — for several brands of smart TVs.

Just in case you’re wondering whether you should bother, though, consider the extent of what Vizio’s ACR allowed the company to do. Lesley Fair is a senior attorney with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, one of the parties that sued Vizio. She says:

On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. …

Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. … Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details — for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership. And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.

If you’re unsure whether you have a smart TV, Money Talks News vice president and resident tech guru Dan Schointuch makes it easy to tell: If your TV has web-based services such as Netflix or Amazon Video built into it, then it’s a smart TV.

Vizio

Note that Vizio refers to its ACR technology as “Smart Interactivity.” Here’s what you should know about it:

  • If you have a SmartCast model, ACR “is not currently enabled,” according to Vizio’s website.
  • If you have a VIA model, ACR “has been disabled” as of Feb. 6 — the same day the FTC announced the lawsuit settlement.
  • If you have a VIA Plus model, you can follow the steps on Vizio’s website for turning it off.

Samsung

Consumer Reports advises:

  • On newer smart TV models, click the Settings icon in the main menu, look for Support, then scroll down to Terms & Policies. There are several options, including Viewing Information Services, Voice Recognition Services, and Nuance Voice Recognition and Privacy Notices. You can choose not to accept any of them. Then disable the Internet-based Advertising feature. …
  • On older Samsung smart TVs, the ACR controls are found under the TVs’ Smart Hub menu. Look for the icon for Settings, click on Support, and find the submenu titled Terms & Policy. Choose SyncPlus and Marketing, where there’s an option to disable the feature. Turning off Voice Recognition Services will disable voice control, a feature that sends your voice commands to a third-party vendor for processing.

LG

Consumer Reports advises:

  • On LG’s newer webOS TVs, click on the icon for Settings from the main menu, then scroll down until you see General. Look for the About This TV submenu, and click on User Agreements. There are three options to consider: Viewing Information, Personal Advertising, and Voice Information. You can choose to opt out of all of these features. …
  • [On older LG TVs, go] to Settings, find Options, then open LivePlus, LG’s version of ACR. Once there, you can toggle the feature on and off.

Sony

Wired reports that most Sony smart TVs use Android TV, “which means you’re subject to Google’s data-collection practices.” Sony can also collect audio data, but clearly displays its privacy terms and conditions when you first use a Sony smart TV and allows you to opt out.

What do you make of smart TVs and their tracking technology? Sound off below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
13 Small Gadgets Under $20 That Make Life Better
13 Small Gadgets Under $20 That Make Life Better

These inexpensive electronics will make your day-to-day life a little easier — and happier.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer
Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer

Earn cash by reading emails, taking surveys, playing games, shopping and signing up for offers through this website.

7 Reasons You Should Consider a Career Change at 50
7 Reasons You Should Consider a Career Change at 50

Wondering how to change careers at 50, or if it’s possible at all? The good news is that many older workers have the energy and experience to pull it off.

5 Memberships That Offer Car Insurance Discounts
5 Memberships That Offer Car Insurance Discounts

These discounts may save you hundreds — even thousands — of dollars a year.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car
9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car

Thinking of leaving these possessions in a car? Prepare for unexpected consequences.

9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar
9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar can save you a lot of money, but using it like this can cost you.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently
10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently

These habits and characteristics can help put you on the track to success.

5 Changes to Your Federal Tax Return Form in 2021
5 Changes to Your Federal Tax Return Form in 2021

The new Form 1040 features two new tax breaks, among other changes.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

29 Purchases That Can Save You Money Every Day
29 Purchases That Can Save You Money Every Day

Sometimes, you’ve got to spend to save.

7 Things I Never Buy at Costco
7 Things I Never Buy at Costco

A bulk buy isn’t always the best buy.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.