CES: Your smart TV is watching you. Will Samsung, LG, Vizio do more to protect privacy?

LAS VEGAS — Television vendors are still struggling to tune into privacy concerns.

The exhibits at CES here once again feature lusciously bright TVs, a little larger and a little thinner than last year’s crop and buzzing with even more streaming-media apps. But if you’re looking for TVs with less of an appetite for your viewing data and more ways to curb that hunger, this gadget gathering is mostly dead air.

That sets them apart from such tech firms as Apple and Google, which have either made privacy a core selling point or have given their customers more tools to limit how much of their data gets scooped up. Meanwhile, connected TVs continue to track what you watch to recommend other shows and movies and allow their vendors to make more money with targeted ads.

“The dirty little secret in the TV industry is that ever-lower prices are driven in part by payment for user data.”

Thin, big, smart and clear – many 8K televisions made its debut at the 2020 CES, including this LG ZX OLED TV. (Photo: LG Electronics.)

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Among the major television vendors, Samsung at least acknowledged privacy concerns in a press event Sunday evening.

Saying “We need to discuss privacy,” consumer-business executive vice president Joe Stinziano said the Korean firm would ship a Privacy Choices app to disclose what data its TVs collect and make it easier to control that.

But he didn’t describe its features further, and Samsung does not have this app available for inspection at its enormous exhibit in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

In an interview after Samsung’s event Sunday, vice president of TV product marketing Andrew Sivori said Samsung would ship this app for TVs as old as 2015 models.

“We know how critical privacy is to consumers,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re just being very transparent about us.”

Other TV manufacturers couldn’t even provide such a low-resolution picture of their privacy plans. For example, LG and Vizio didn’t mention the topic – even though Vizio paid $22 million in fines in 2017 for burying its sets’ data collection in an arcane and deceptive interface.

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