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Your TV is spying on you but you can stop it

Fun fact: The first Compaq portable computer shipped in 1983 and cost over $8,400 in today’s dollars. Wow, times have changed.

Still, your computer is a significant investment and you want it to perform well for years to come.

You don’t have to deal with the same issues with your television, but a common question I get is the best method to wipe away fingerprints and fabric.

Unfortunately, just like on a computer or phone, you have to think about tracking on your TV. Keep reading to find out how you welcomed a spy into your living room – and what you can do about it.

Man watching TV
Your TV may be spying on you, here’s how to stop it.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Why are TVs so cheap?

Remember when a large flat screen TV was a total luxury item?

Now TVs come with a host of bells and whistles and smart features, and you can buy top-of-the-line models for a fraction of the price. What gives?

It’s all about the data. You already know that your private data is worth a lot of money. One way to stop greedy data brokers is through remove yourself from their people search sites.

Think about everything your TV knows about you and your family. That data makes up for the low price of new televisions. Over time, this data farming will make back more money than they ever made on those sets.

Are you looking for a TV? There are many buzzwords and marketing terms to get you to spend more. Don’t fall for it.

Is it worth it? It depends

It’s hard to do much in the digital world without it being tracked in some way, controlled, or monetized. Some people work hard to find ways around thatchoose to pay for extra privacy or use alternatives that focus on users, not data mining.

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Others raise their hands and say that this is the price we pay for free and cheap services and devices that we rely on to live our lives.

I fall somewhere in the middle. Yes, there’s a certain amount of tracking and data collection you have to swallow if you want to use anything from a smart assistant to your inbox.

But you don’t have to blindly approve every collection method. There’s a lot you can do to take back your privacy for as long as you want dive into your device’s settings.

When it comes to your TV, you can start here.

Prevent your TV from spying

Many smart TVs are equipped with cameras that most people don’t know are there. There’s not much you can do except void the device’s warranty and remove it yourself. You could hide it, but who wants electrical tape on their television screen?

Start with your smart TV’s tracking features, especially Automatic Content Recognition (ACR).

What is ACR and how do you disable it? It is a visual recognition feature that can identify any ad, TV show or movie that you are playing on your TV. This includes streaming boxes, cable/over-the-air TV, and even DVD and Blu-Ray players.

This data is collected and used for marketing and targeted advertising purposes. If all this sounds too creepy, there are ways to turn it off. The exact methods depend on the brand of your TV.

vizio

On older Vizio TVs that use Vizio Internet Apps (VIA), go to the TVs System and then: Reset & Manage > Smart interactivity > Out.

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On Vizio smart TVs that use the newer SmartCast system, go to System > Reset & Manage > View data > switch to Out.

Samsung

On newer Samsung sets, go to Settings > Support > scroll down to Terms and Policies. Here you can turn from Viewing information services (Samsung’s ACR technology), Internet-based advertising (for personalized advertising tracking), and speech recognition services.

On older Samsung smart TVs, go to the TVs Smart Hub menu > Settings > Support > search Terms and Policies > then turn of SyncPlus and Marketing. You can also disable speech recognition services in this section.

Please note that disabling your Samsung TV’s voice recognition services will disable voice commands.

LG

LG’s ACR technology is baked into its newer WebOS-powered smart TVs, known as LivePlus. Go to to disable it Settings > All settings > scroll down to General > scroll down to a recalled setting LivePlus > switch to Out.

Go back to to restrict other forms of data collection on your LG smart TV Settings > All settings > scroll down to General > About this television > User Agreements > enable personalized ads on Out.

More steps to keep your habits private

If you’re hoping to minimize the impact of big data on your viewing experience, here are more tips to try.

  • Adjust your privacy settings limit what data your device sends back to the manufacturer.
  • Disable voice control. This may prevent your TV from analyzing conversations to listen for the wake word or commands.
  • Avoid free apps and channels. A mix of advertising and data collection generally supports it.
  • Also consider what your streaming services and devices are tracking.
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