Of all the "smart" devices, few are more controversial than the smart TV. The idea makes a lot of sense: Combine the best parts of a computer and a television into one super-machine. What could go wrong?
Well, as popular as smart TVs are – especially in the luxury tech department – many critics dislike the format, and the technology is surprisingly susceptible to ransomware. Companies have had to defend their inventions again and again and compared to simpler and less expensive forms of entertainment, the smart TV is struggling to earn its place in your family room.
The latest issue: privacy. Certain models keep tabs on their owners in uncomfortable ways, and there's really no good reason for this kind of shifty behavior.
Our advice: Turn the feature off. Here's how to do it.
Vizio recently came under fire when customers realized that the advertising was a little too familiar. That's because Vizio smart TVs were keeping track of what owners watched and then tailored advertisements to them specifically. This happens even if you're using an external source, like Amazon Fire or Roku.
This may not shock you, given how many advertisements follow you around the internet based on cookies you've accumulated along the way. Banner ads for your favorite Amazon products may appear in your Yahoo feed, for example, and Facebook could write an encyclopedia about your preferences.
But Vizio shares this information with third-party companies, and it's hard for the average consumer to find out where their data go. Meanwhile, smart TVs are famously vulnerable to hackers, and you may not want your device to know quite so much about you.
First go to the TV's System setting, and then: Reset & Admit >> Smart Interactivity >> Off.
Samsung got into some hot water as well when techies picked apart the voice command system. Yes, it's nice to be able to control your TV with your voice, but Samsung saves that data and then sends it to third-party companies.
In many ways, this is even more frightening, because it isn't just your preferences in movies and TV shows: It's your actual voice. Samsung and its affiliates aren't planning to do anything nefarious with this information, but there's no reason for them to have it in the first place.
Go to the TV's Smart Hub, and then: Terms & Policy >> SyncPlus and Marketing >> Disable.
Luckily, most LG TVs don't use this kind of spy feature as a default setting anymore, so you should be safe. But slightly older sets may have a feature called "Live Plus," which is essentially the same thing.
Just to make sure your LG television is safe, go to Options >> LivePlus >> Off.
Getting more from your smart TV
Once you've taken these steps to secure the privacy of your smart TV, there are many benefits to owning one. Did you know that you can use your smart TV to get regular weather reports, stream live feeds and even browse the web? Click here to see these features, plus four more unique things your smart TV can do.