Consumers who watch television regularly are more than familiar with the concept of advertising. Companies pay a lot of money to make sure viewers know about them and their product, so it should come as no surprise that they monitor what shows people are watching to make sure they're reaching their target audience.
With the advent of Smart TVs, companies have become more knowledgeable about their consumers than ever before. Knowing if you're watching something from your DVR, via live broadcast, or on Netflix says a surprising amount about what kind of consumer you are. Vizio, however, may have crossed the line with its data collection practices by connecting to viewers' home IP addresses.
Connecting to home IP addresses
ProPublica reports that Vizio, a consumer electronics company, is doing several things that depart from regular data collection practices. In addition to recording data on what you watch and in what format you watch it in, Vizio also allows their smart TVs to connect to viewers' home IP addresses. Unlike many other Smart TV products, this feature is already enabled upon purchase, so many consumers might not know about it.
Connecting to IP addresses allows for a much more thorough form of data collection. Demographic information, such as your age, income, gender, and other marketable information becomes easily available. With that information, Vizio can create a marketing profile for you that is worth a lot of money to other companies that are looking to sell you things.
These other companies would also then be able to match your profile to any other device that you have connected to your network – a scary thought when you think about how many devices you and your family have that do this. All computers, TVs, phones, tablets, game consoles, and smart devices would become susceptible to ads that these third party companies send out.
Security and privacy concerns
You may be thinking that getting these more targeted ads may not be a big deal, but there is potentially more at stake here than that. Vizio claims that they will not be encrypting IP addresses that they share with third parties, so this can open up consumers to a number of security and privacy issues if something goes wrong.
In their report, ProPublica reiterates that this level of information sharing and gathering is illegal, but thus far Vizio has denied that they are doing anything prohibited by law.