KSL Investigates: Outsmarting your smart TV

Feb 11, 2018, 11:15 AM | Updated: Feb 12, 2018, 10:27 pm
Smart TVs offer a host of conveniences, but those conveniences come at a significant cost to privac...
Smart TVs offer a host of conveniences, but those conveniences come at a significant cost to privacy.

SALT LAKE CITY — Smart TVs offer a host of conveniences, but those conveniences come at a significant cost to privacy.

Millions of sets have been sold and many come armed with microphones and cameras to hear and see their users. The features are designed to make TVs more interactive. But they also make it easier for manufacturers to track consumer habits.

The KSL Investigators asked two experts, KSL engineer Shawn Callaway and tech expert Sarah Kimmel, a simple question: If someone buys a smart TV, is there a way to keep companies from collecting information on them?

“We’re in a world now where everything is online, all the data is being collected, we’ve already given up a lot of our privacy,” Kimmel said.

For example, if a consumer watches “Will & Grace” every Thursday night, the TV will recognize the program. It sends what they’re watching to the manufacturer and the manufacturer can sell that information to advertisers to target that smart TV with tailored ads.

A new article from Consumer Reports said millions of smart TVs can be crudely hacked. Researchers found someone can mess with the volume, change the channel, or pull up offensive content from the Internet anywhere in the world. However, Consumer Reports said smart TV owners’ personal information could not be gleaned from these hacks. Manufacturer Roku said the findings were wrong.

The KSL Investigators found the fix for many of these spy features, but they were buried in fine print. If a consumer doesn’t want to be tracked, they need to pick which features on the smart TV are active. Turning off the microphone will keep the TV from listening to you. Turning off the camera will keep it from detecting when you’re in the room. There’s an even simpler way to protect your privacy.

“If you want to make a smart TV dumb, the best thing to do is not to connect it to a network, either WiFi or wired,” Callaway said.

But there’s a trade-off. Disconnecting the Internet means consumers won’t get any of the features like Netflix, Hulu or YouTube.

“You have to choose whether you want privacy or functionality. You can never have 100 percent of both,” Callaway said.

TV maker Vizio paid $2.2 million in 2017 to settle charges from the Federal Trade Commission that it was not clearly telling consumers how it was collecting users’ data and what it was doing with it.

As a result, TV makers now explain their product’s tracking features and ways to disable the features in the paperwork that comes with a new TV.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: How cybercriminals use social engineering to get us to hand over our sensitive info

You can have the strongest, most secure password in the history of cybersecurity, but the bad guys know there is one weakness they can use to hack into your system - you!
4 days ago
Delric Ellington and Kael Ellington talk about a stray bullet that entered their Salt Lake City hom...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

Amid increase in youth shooting deaths, Utah pediatricians push for tougher gun laws

The number of Utah children and teens killed by gunfire reached a record high in 2020, in part because of a spike in homicides. Two Utah pediatricians are calling on the state to pass what they see as solutions to the troubling trend.
7 days ago
Albee Bostrom and Sissy McDade turned their love of thrift store shopping into a business: Thrift H...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Second-hand shopping, selling surge as Utahns try to beat rising prices

Data shared with the KSL investigators shows Utahns are trying to bring in more money and reduce spending as they try to bust inflation.
7 days ago
Bry Hansen visits his son's grave in South Jordan. (Tanner Siegworth/KSL TV)...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

The number of Utah kids and teens dying by gunfire hit a record high in 2020

The state hit a devastating milestone in 2020, recording the highest-ever number of shooting deaths among Utahns 18 and younger.
7 days ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: What can you do if you pay someone to do work but they disappear with your money?

Imagine paying a deposit only to have them take your money and ghost you.
9 days ago
Photo illustration (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)...
Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: Your credit card can up your interest rate without telling you

If your credit card company raises your interest rate even just a little bit, it could have a significant impact on how long it takes you to get out of debt. A relatively new law means your credit card company can do just that and they do not even have to give you the heads up.
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
KSL Investigates: Outsmarting your smart TV