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Why you might start seeing ads over what you’re watching on Roku

At this point, seeing targeted ads on sites like Facebook is no surprise. The good news is you don’t have to live with them. Tap or click here for ways to stop ad tracking on Facebook.

But the last place you’d expect to see targeted ads is through your television. If you have a Roku TV, don’t be shocked when ads start popping up while you’re streaming your favorite show.

Yes, it’s actually happening. Thankfully there is a way to block it. Keep reading to find out how.

Here’s the backstory

The key to targeted advertising is knowing what content your customers like. For a smart TV company to dig deep into your preferences, it needs to monitor what you are watching.

Roku announced plans late last year to introduce more advertising to its customers on streaming devices and Roku-powered smart TVs. As users on a Reddit thread mentioned, it seems that has now been activated.

Publishers on Roku track channel content through Nielsen Digital Content Ratings (DCR), and they use the data to serve targeted advertising. After seeing an ad for a mattress company, one user complains that a banner popped up over a live stream.

“Welp, this is the last time I purchase or recommend a Roku. After a Sleep Number commercial, I just got a Roku ad sidebar while watching live TV. Really loved the Roku experience up until now, but this is a deal-breaker,” wrote Reddit user p3t3or.

The new form of advertising seems to only occur on certain Roku-enabled televisions, such as the Sharp TV the Reddit user complained about. The Roku Ultra, Express, Streambar, or Streaming Stick devices don’t seem to be affected. Yet.

Last week the company revealed that it would bring more Sharp Roku TV models to the U.S, expanding its current HD and 4K lineup.

What you can do about it

While it is almost impossible to get away from advertising, there are steps that you can take to limit its reach. In addition to Nielsen Digital Content Ratings, Roku devices also use a technology called Automatic Content Recognition (ACR).

It forms part of the system that tracks what you watch and then delivers advertising based on your viewing habits. Luckily you can turn it off, and here’s how:

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.

For users of other TV brands, you can read this article on how to switch off tracking for your device.

Keep reading

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