Reports revealed in November 2015 that Vizio Smart TVs were collecting data about its customers without their knowledge, virtually spying on everything users watched on their TVs. The US Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Vizio on Monday that further explains the type and amount of data Vizio collected. The TV maker acknowledged the practice, agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges and to stop collecting data without consent.
Starting in February 2014, the software on Vizio TVs collected a treasure trove of data, transmitting it to its servers, Ars Technica reports. Vizio then sold it to unnamed third-parties, for audience measurement, analysis, and tracking purposes.
Vizio said that the software would not collect personally identifiable information.
“The ACR program never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information such as name or contact information, and the Commission did not allege or contend otherwise,” the company said. “Instead, as the Complaint notes, the practices challenged by the government related only to the use of viewing data in the ‘aggregate’ to create summary reports measuring viewing audiences or behaviors.”
“For all of these uses, Defendants provide highly specific, second-by-second information about television viewing,” FTC said. “Each line of a report provides viewing information about a single television. In a securities filing, Vizio states that its data analytics program, for example, ‘provides highly specific viewing behavior data on a massive scale with great accuracy, which can be used to generate intelligent insights for advertisers and media content providers.'”
The software captured up to 100 billion data points each day from more than 10 million Vizio TVs. The software also collected other information that could be used to generate additional details about users, “including age, sex, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and home values.”
Ars points out that researchers also discovered that Vizio TVs transmitted data without properly validating HTTPS certificates. That made it possible for third-parties to capture the data.
Vizio will pay $1.5 million to the FTC and $700,000 to the New Jersey Division of Consumer to settle the case. Furthermore, the company is required to delete all the collected data before March 1, and obtain consent for all future data collection campaigns.