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TV & streaming

If you use a Roku, get ready for more ads

There is no doubt that streaming services have exploded over the last few years. More people have flocked to Netflix, Hulu or Disney+ than ever before to get their viewing fix. For the most part, basic access to these services is relatively affordable. Yes, your smart TV is spying on you – Here’s how to stop it.

But if you want to enjoy an uninterrupted experience, you’ll need to fork over a bit more cash for the ad-free versions. For some, the convenience of being ad-free isn’t worth the money, and they opt to sit through advertising. But just because it’s cheaper doesn’t mean that you aren’t paying for it other ways.

Taking a page from social media’s playbook on targeted advertising, streaming platform Roku invested in technology that will allow them to serve you with more ads. 

Here’s the backstory

You don’t pay for access to use services like Facebook or Instagram, but you have to give up some personal information for the company to use. The data that it harvests from your profile is used to serve you with targeted advertising.

Roku wants to know more about you, but it doesn’t have an interest in where you live or which sports team you support. To make it easier for advertisers to promote their products, it wants to know what you are watching, how often and at what times.

This week Roku announced that it’s going ahead with plans for publishers to track channel content through Nielsen Digital Content Ratings (DCR). 

This means content publishers on the Roku platform will have access to demographics, shopping habits, age, and insights on who’s watching what programming. This will, in turn, lead to more targeted advertising for users. 

What you can do about it

It’s nearly impossible to get away from targeted advertising completely, but there are ways to limit their reach. Many services, including Roku, use Automatic Content Recognition (ACR). It’s essentially a high-tech tool for keeping track of what is being watched.

This can be turned off on Roku devices and prevent the company and advertisers from keeping tabs on the content you watch. Here’s how to turn off ACR on your Roku device:

On a Roku-powered smart TV, go to Settings, scroll down and select Privacy. Then choose Smart TV Experience. From there, you’ll need to uncheck Use Information for TV Inputs to disable ACR. 

To stop targeted advertising to your Roku profile, go to Settings and tap Privacy, followed by Advertising. Here, you need to select Limit ad tracking for the setting to take effect.

Keep reading

These handy sites can help you find the streaming shows you’re looking for

Streaming comparison: Roku vs. Apple TV vs. Fire TV vs. Chromecast

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