Vizio Fined by Federal Trade Commission

I normally do not report on technology stories outside of Apple, but the recent story of Vizio being fined by the Federal Trace Commission (FTC) is one that I determined warranted some coverage.

Backstory

The FTC has fined Vizio $2.2 Million for their behaviors. The backstory is that in 2014 Vizio began tracking what viewers were watching. This was done by capturing a set of pixels on the screen, sending this information, along with other information, to their servers. Through the use of machine learning, Vizio was able to match those pixels to a vast catalog of shows. This gathering occurred on a second-by-second basis. The information gathered was then aggregated and sold to third-party advertisers. This information that was obtained included demographics, location, and viewing habits. If it was merely a mechanism for gathering what was watched, it may not be considered too bad, but it was more. Despite how bad this was, it was not just TVs that were made after 2014, but that Vizio went back and proactively enabled this on TVs as far back as 2011. The primary complaint was that Vizio did not get a viewer’s consent before performing this action.

Problems with this

The biggest issue that I have with this, besides the fact that this was being done without the knowledge of users, is that Vizio has been the only one who has been caught doing this. Does this mean that they are the only company that is performing in this behavior? I highly doubt it. It is very likely that many other manufacturers are also performing this action.

Bandwidth Usage

One aspect that is not always readily recognized in today’s technology-laden world is the amount of bandwidth being used. While the information may have been sent in batches, it still uses some bandwidth of every user. Depending on how much the TV was used, this could easily add up. Take this with consideration that many users now fall into data caps and this uses up that bandwidth.

Mitigations that can be done now

There are a few ways to not have this occur. The first is disconnect the TV from your network. If the TV is connected via a physical ethernet cable (which is unlikely for most users), you can simply unplug it. However, if it is connected via Wireless, you will need to disconnect it from the Wireless, and if possible, set the TV to completely “forget” the network, so it cannot reconnect on its own.

The downside to do this though, is that since it is a “Smart TV”, if you use any of the built-in services, like Netflix, you may not be able to use them. This could likely include not being able to watch Netflix in 4K.

Streaming Boxes

Another possible solution is to use an external 3rd party box, like Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, or even an Roku, in conjunction with disconnecting the TV from the network. While some of these devices may also be tracking what you watch, it is more likely that it is for their own purposes and not to sell to third-parties. However, you will want to read the agreements before saying anything definitive.

Long-term Fixes

There is no simple fix that can be made for this. The fix has to come either through governmental regulation or through industry regulations. The other option, which is not likely, is for people to tell the industry with their dollar. This is likely due to the limited availability for “dumb” TVs on the market. There is a small contingent of people who would be willing to pay a bit more for a TV that did not have any “smart” capabilities. I know I would be one of those people.

Final Thoughts

The solution for this problem is not an easy one to determine. It may take some pushback from consumers to demand that privacy regulations be created so that the consumer is in charge of how their information is used. This must come with regulation. The fine of Vizio is designed to let all manufacturers know that they must now get explicit, not implicit, permission from users before gathering the information. The damage, from the existing gathering and selling of information, is already done. Being required to get permissions from users will undoubtedly ultimately hurt the bottom line of the television manufacturers, since fewer users will agree to the collection, thus, they will not be able to sell as much information to advertisers.

It would behove the government to begin lobbying even larger fines for any company that performs in the same manner as Vizio. If the government is truly intent on curbing this type of abuse, as well as others, making it hurt financially may be an effective way of doing just that.

Washington Post

Daily Run Down 05/17/2011

Here is today’s Daily Run Down.

  • Japan has widened the evacuation area around the Fukushima Power Plant.
  • New York Ranger’s Forward Derek Boogaard’s brain will be donated to science to study the effect of concussions.
  • Search for life has begun on 86 planets.
  • Dropbox may face an FTC investigation over false statements regarding data security.
  • Mirimax has signed a deal with Netflix for digital streaming.
  • Mozilla is detailing plans to kill off Firefox 3.5.
  • The Endeavor Space Shuttle has lifted off.
  • Microsoft’s Support for Vista Service Pack 1 is ending July 12th.
  • Some Small Developers have been slapped with lawsuits regarding in-app purchases.
  • RIM has confirmed a limited Blackberry Playbook recall.
  • Lodsys has explained it’s lawsuits.
  • Nokia has discontinued its Ovi brand.
  • Samsung has launched it’s Android Developer forums.
  • Donald Trump has announced that he is not running for President in 2012.
  • Baby squid, Bugs and other microbes were launched into space with Endeavor.
  • The Japanese Government has rejected Sony’s Relaunch of the Playstation Network.

Look for more stories tomorrow. If an important story has been missed please leave it in the comments.

Daily Run Down 03/31/2011

Here is today’s Daily Run Down.

  • Roku is now available in Best Buy.
  • Contaminated IVs are suspected in 9 deaths in Alabama.
  • BlackBerry Messenger is rumored to be on iOS devices on April 26th.
  • Evan Williams is stepping down from his day-to-day role at Twitter.
  • HP has released Web OS 3.0 beta to developers.
  • Microsoft has raised licensing prices.
  • New York City’s BedBug battle has gone Digital.
  • Google has chosen Kansas City, Kansas as it’s Fiber Test bed.
  • Google has settled it’s Buzz Privacy Lawsuit with the FTC.
  • Popular Science has received 10,000 subscriptions on the iPad in 5 weeks.
  • Games reportedly work ‘neurological magic’.
  • The Danish Supreme Court has set a high bar for evidence in file sharing cases.
  • Dark Matter Heat could make exoplanet habitable.

Look for more stories tomorrow. If an important story has been missed please leave it in the comments.

Daily Run Down 12/05/2010

Here is today’s Daily Run Down.

Current News:

  • A Quantas Airways Plane has clipped the wing of an American Airlines Jet.
  • The FTC claims it’s talking to Adobe about it’s problem with Flash Cookies.
  • Villagers have been evacuated as the Tungurahua volcano erupts.
  • The State Department is warning students again discussing WikiLeaks on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Rear-view Cameras could become mandatory for all cars in the US.
  • After a failed Launch, three Russian Satellites have landed in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Facebook’s new Profiles are official.

Historical News:

  • In 771, Charlemagne becomes sole king of the Franks.
  • In 1443, Pope Julius II is born.
  • In 1492, Christopher Columbus lands on Hispaniola (now Haiti) and becomes the first European to do so.
  • In 1766, James Christie holds his first Sale.
  • In 1782, Martin Van Buren, Future president of The United States, is born.
  • In 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dies at the age of 34.
  • In 1848, President James Polk declared a ‘huge’ supply of Gold in California.
  • In 1839, George A. Custer is born.
  • In 1901, Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse and other classics, is born.
  • In 1902, Strom Thurmond, longest serving US Politician, is born.
  • In 1926, Claude Monet, the French Impressionist Painter, dies.
  • In 1932, Albert Einstein is granted an American Visa.
  • In 1933, Prohibition in the United States ends.
  • In 1945, Flight 19 is lost over the Bermuda Triangle.
  • In 1951, ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson, conspirator in the ‘Black Sox Scandal’ dies at the age of 64.

Look for more stories tomorrow. If an important story has been missed please leave it in the comments.

Daily Run Down 09/26/2010

Here is today’s Daily Run Down.

Current News:

  • Martin King, Co-Creator of the T9 predictive text algorithm has died.
  • Tivo has delayed their DirecTV HD unit until 2011.
  • Here are 11 Science-Fiction predictions that ultimately became true.

Historical News:

  • In 46 BC, Julius Caesar dedicates a temple to Venus Genetrix.
  • In 1687, part of the Parthenon is destroyed during the during a bombing from the Venetian forces.
  • In 1774, Johnny Appleseed, an American environmentalist, was born.
  • In 1777, British Troops occupy Philadelphia during the American Revolution.
  • In 1820, Daniel Boone, an American Frontiersman dies.
  • In 1888, American-born British Writer T.S. Eliot is born.
  • In 1914, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is established.
  • In 1918, the Single bloodiest battle, the Meuse-Argonne offensive begins.
  • In 1944, Operation Market Garden fails.
  • In 1960, the First televised debate took place>.
  • In 1973, The Concorde makes it’s first non-stop flight over the Atlantic Ocean in record time.
  • In 2008, Actor Paul Newman dies.

Look for more stories tomorrow. If an important story has been missed please leave it in the comments.

Daily Run Down 05/21/2010

Here is today’s Daily Run Down.

  • A pyramid discovered in Peru has opened a link to Ancient Copper Industry.
  • AT&T has raised the Early Termination Fee on Smart Phones to $350.
  • An Attorney has decoded some numbers on a ‘Red Light Camera’ photo to prove that they are incorrect.
  • Hewlett-Packard has recalled 54,000 laptop batteries.
  • The US Federal Trade commission has approved Google’s purchase of AdMob citing Apple’s iAd..
  • Louisiana has a stupid idea about cyberbullying Laws.
  • John Shepard-Barron, the creator of the ATM, has died at the age of 84.
  • There are now some hints at Comets circling other stars.
  • Tesla has landed a deal with Toyota to manufacture Model S Sedan in California.
  • Audio pioneer and cryptographer, Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, has died at the age of 98.

Look for more stories tomorrow.

Daily Run Down: 03-11-2010

Here is today’s Daily Run Down.

  • Foursquare and Starbucks have teamed up to offer customers rewards.
  • TigerText, the application to erase embarrassing text messages has gone international.
  • Apple is revamping the E-book categories prior to the iPad launch on April 3rd.
  • Barnes and Noble has officially acknowledged that they are working on an iPhone OS E-reader application.
  • Pink Floyd tracks will no longer be available as single tracks, it’ll albums only.
  • President Obama has given away his $1.4 Million Nobel prize to charities.
  • Playstation has copied the WiiMote with the ‘Playstation Move’.
  • 48 Hawaii Only species are now on the endangered list.
  • Actor Merlin Olsen has died at the age of 89.
  • New Zealand is going to be adding a $900 Million cable to the pacific.
  • Half of Kansas City Missouri schools will be closed come fall.
  • Ireland now has a Leprechaun Museum.
  • Unlike Illinois, California tax payers should be getting their refunds on time.
  • The Federal Trade Commission may block the Google/AdMob deal.

Look for more stories tomorrow.

Daily Run Down: 01-08-2010

Here is today’s Daily Run Down.

  • The FCC has been dealt a blow by the federal appeals court.
  • Acer is recalling 22,000 notebooks.
  • Hootsuite, creators of the iPhone App, have raised $1.9 million.
  • Wired Science has an article on how Hominids went out of Africa on rafts.
  • Scientist have turned wood into bone.
  • Apple has gained control of sixteen web domains in an ICANN dispute.
  • Vice President Biden’s mother has died at the age of 92.
  • A Swiss speeder has been slapped with a $290,000 fine.
  • Rumor is that the next generation iPhone will carry an LED flash.
  • Drew Peterson’s trial will be kept open.
  • A bookie refuses to pay an $11 million payout.
  • Microsoft has patented DRM’d torrents.
  • Google has applied to be an energy marketer.
  • Disney will be releasing it’s first 3D Blu-ray this holiday season.
  • Scientists have discovered the oldest footprints on earth.
  • Senator Ron Wyden has demanded the IP treaty details.
  • Palm has opened it’s developer program.
  • The FTC says celebrities do not have to disclose freebies.
  • Google news has ceased hosting new AP content.

Look for more stories tomorrow.