Home Technology Expert Opinion: Does your Smart TV spy on you?

Expert Opinion: Does your Smart TV spy on you?

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In more than 25% of cases, your television spy on you and it broadcasts many information about you on the Internet. Worse, you have no idea what information is collected, who receives the data, and what they do with it. Avira – specialist in security applications – offers us his point of view.

But what exactly does a smart TV do?

To put it simply, it is a computer always on, always connected, with a big screen. Among other features, smart TVs allow you to access streaming services over a broadband connection. Through this connection, users can surf the Internet, access video-on-demand services and listen to their favorite music. And thanks to the integration with voice recognition tools like Alexa, users do not even have to use a remote control to switch from one channel to another.

Your TV is becoming smarter

Surfing this wave, homes are becoming more and more intelligent, at least in terms of televisions. According to Statista data, more than a quarter of homes with a television in Germany (27.6%) watched a smart TV in 2016. As manufacturers add more and more smart features to televisions and consumers choose Streaming to watch their favorite content, the popularity of smart TV has almost tripled, since the penetration rate of 11% in 2013. The trend is obvious: all televisions will soon be equipped with intelligent features such as integrated streaming or assistants based on artificial intelligence.

Channeling the future

Smart TVs are already one of the most commonly connected connected objects. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Manufacturers are turning televisions into home control centers, and want to incorporate thermostats, lighting and locks. The possibilities are colossal. Smart TV sales worldwide are expected to reach $ 300 billion this year and take off sharply to reach $ 1.5 trillion in 2027.

A scenario reminiscent of the 1984 book?

The fear that a smart TV could become the screen described in George Orwell’s 1984 dystopian novel is rarely mentioned. “YOU! Lower yourself, please! You can do better than that.” Cried the fitness coach Winston Smith the main character of the book 1984. While we have not yet heard of spying television viewers and orders them to do exercise: at first, it seems obvious that people refuse – and certainly does not buy – a device that has such blatant access to their daily activities.

“One hour with a smart TV

But it turns out that we already buy this kind of devices, and these connected objects know a lot about us. In just one hour, Avira found that a smart TV searched and recorded a lot of information about his home:

Has opened three vulnerable ports on the Internet.

Scanned the home network to find other connected objects.

Collected 750 pages of textual information about who uses the device and how it is used.

Sent this information to 13 servers, many of which are unknown.

Transferred the information to non-enabled services that do not have a registered user account.

Worse still, the television did all this while no one in the house was using it actively.”

Can we trust home automation?

Your connected TV is not the only one to behave this way: other connected objects do the same. Of course, some of this monitoring can be justified: the manufacturer wants to know if his device works well, the content provider wants to know more about your consumption habits… but we do not really know what information is collected or where are these data. It is also questionable whether you, as the owner of this television, gave your consent for the collection of this data. The only explanation is that you simply trust the manufacturer and his armada of tracking devices so he does nothing wrong.

Aggressive tracking without permission is only malware

Blind trust can be risky for home security. Avira has traditionally spoken out against applications like SilverPush that collect user data without their permission and listed it as malware.

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