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TV & streaming

True or false: Your smart TV is recording what you say

The pandemic has played no small part in the rise of couch potatoes. We’re working and learning from home, and while it’s great to use this time to be productive and discover new hobbies, the call of the tube is strong. New TV shows spring up overnight and movies that were destined for the big screen are streaming right to our homes.

Even the most affordable television sets have great picture quality, but you can make things better no matter how much you’ve spent. Tap or click here to learn how to improve your TV experience by fiddling with some basic settings.

Smart TVs make it easy to stream our favorite shows and movies without purchasing and setting up extra equipment. We use them for web browsing, gaming, and accessing media from phones and computers. As with any smart device, this constant internet connection puts privacy into question. Is your smart TV listening to you and collecting data?

The short answer

Yes, smart TVs listen. They are not the only culprits, however. Your laptops, smartphones, tablets, speakers and more can gather data about you. They compile your viewing and browsing habits to learn more about you and target you with ads and content. Even worse, your smart devices can share gathered information with third parties.

Your apps are also guilty of spying on you. Tap or click here for information on a tool that can tell you which apps are the culprits.

Smart TV manufacturers claim that they can give you more relevant recommendations by tracking what you watch. This extends to advertising, so don’t be surprised when you come across suspiciously familiar ads.

Automatic Content Recognition

It goes under different names depending on the brand, but your smart TV is likely equipped with Automatic Content Recognition. ACR identifies what you’re watching, be it an ad, movie, television show or live stream. This data is compiled and used for marketing by the manufacturer and shared with other parties.

ACR can detect what you’re watching on your smart TVs, streaming devices, cable TV, gaming consoles, Blu-Ray and DVD players.

Watch what you say in front of the TV

Voice recognition is convenient for finding content and controlling your smart television, but be careful with your words. Sensitive information can be captured and shared with other parties.

Your television’s microphone can be hacked, exposing what you say to people even more dangerous than an advertiser. Tap or click here for tips on stopping your TV from spying on you.

You can fight back

If you want complete privacy when it comes to your smart TV, you’ll have to get rid of it. But then you may as well get rid of your smartphone, tablet and social media accounts. You will always have some level of exposure, but you can take steps to lower it.

Check out our tips below for disabling ACR on Samsung smart TVs and Roku-equipped sets. We’ll also tell you how to disable voice recognition. Note that even with these actions, your smart TV can still gather data such as your location.

Samsung TVs

If you have a Samsung TV and want to disable ACR, go to Settings > Support and scroll down to Terms & Policies. Toggle off Viewing Information Services to disable ACR. While you’re there, switch off Interest-Based Advertising to get rid of personalized ad-tracking.

You can switch off Voice Recognition Services from the same screen to stop your TV from collecting data based on your voice. You will lose the ability to use your voice for searches and commands, however.

Roku TVs

Roku comes built into many smart TVs, along with ACR. To disable it, go to Settings and scroll down to Privacy > Smart TV Experience. Toggle Use Information for TV Inputs off to disable ACR. You can also go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising and check Limit ad tracking to stop personalized targeting.

Look for Microphone under Smart TV Experience. You can change the settings for voice recognition by channels or turn off the feature completely. Tap or click here for tips on disabling tracking features on other smart TV brands.

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