Smart TVs and streaming dongles are sharing private user data with advertisers

Sensitive user data are being sent to third parties even when some of the devices were idle

Two separate studies have discovered that smart TVs and streaming dongles are sharing private user information with third-party advertisers. TV manufacturers such as Samsung and LG and streaming sticks from Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV were found to be tracking and sending data to companies including Google, Facebook and Netflix.

Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Amazon Fire TV Stick.

As reported by the Financial Times, a study from Northeastern University and Imperial College of London found in research that these devices were tracking sensitive information even when nothing was being watched. Whether the user had a Netflix account or not, it didn’t matter since data was being sent regardless. They also found that smart speakers and cameras were sending out data to companies including Spotify and Microsoft.

This study was conducted across 81 different devices in the UK and the US and it was observed that Akamai, Amazon, Google and Microsoft were the most frequently contacted because these companies provide cloud and networking services. The researchers were able to analyse the network traffic and were able to conclude that the information collected included the user devices, locations, and when they were interacting with it. They also noted that since the data transmitted was encrypted, they couldn’t determine what was being shared.

Another study by Princeton University discovered some apps on Roku and Fire TV were sending several data parameters including specific identifiers to companies like Google.

Several companies in question responded with statements to FT mentioning that it does indeed indulge in tracking data and sharing them with third-party services.

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