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TV & streaming

Creepy: Ads might be playing on your TV – even when it’s off

We’re constantly bombarded with ads. Just look at your phone, your computer and even your streaming devices.

The good news? There’s a lot you can do to limit what info you share with advertisers. Tap or click here to shut down targeted ads on your smartphone.

In some cases, though, you might be getting ads and not even realize it. New research shows your streaming services may continue playing content and ads after you’ve turned off your TV. We’ll explain how and what you can do about it.

Here’s the backstory

When you switch off your television, you assume that all your connected services are off, too. That generally is the case — unless you have a smart TV with downloads running in the background.

It’s not just that, though. A new study shows that up to 17% of streaming impressions, and the ads that play during those sessions, are actually shown to inactive TVs. Translation: You may be getting ads to your TV even when the screen is dark and you think everything is turned off.

That’s according to new research from GroupM and advertising measurement company iSpot.tv Inc.

How does this happen? Well, there’s often a miscommunication between your TV, streaming device and the streaming service you have open. Simply put, your TV doesn’t always send the “off” signal through the display cable to the streaming device.

That means your Roku or Apple TV sometimes assumes you’re still watching and continues showing you content and advertising. The streaming device only pauses playback when a TV successfully sends the “off” signal.

The study notes that this phenomenon is isolated to streaming sticks, dongles and other devices. If you’re streaming via apps built into your TV’s operating system, there’s no delay that keeps content playing after you turn it off.

What you can do about it

Your personal information is incredibly valuable to streaming and advertising companies. They use your data to personalize and target the ads you see.

In some ways, this is useful. Some people argue that if they’re going to see ads, they might as well be ads that appeal to them.

But if ads are shown on your device when you aren’t actually watching, you can’t skip them or choose another. As a result, your targeted ads could become less targeted over time without a way to provide feedback.

Beyond that, you just might not like the idea that a show or movie — and advertising — are continuing to play after you’re done watching.

What can you do about it? Your best bet is to switch off your streaming device before shutting down your TV if you can. If your streaming dongle, stick or box is off, it won’t receive any content.

Note that some streaming devices, like the Roku, cannot be powered down unless you disconnect the power supply or unplug it from your TV.

While privacy is on your mind, you can also check your TV settings and look for the Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) option. This is what advertisers use to keep track of what you watch. If you have the option, turn it off for more privacy. Tap or click here for instructions to get this done on your TV.

Keep reading

Here’s where you can watch 4,000 free TV episodes (if you don’t mind ads)

How advertisers collect your data and target you with ads

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