Vizio Settles Watching Behavior Tracking Lawsuit

By Steve Anderson February 07, 2017

Vizio televisions are often a great choice for those looking for a bargain option to upgrade a home theater. There are often better quality systems out there, but these can run into much higher costs than Vizio systems often do. However, some may be reconsidering a Vizio purchase with word of its new settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The settlement requires Vizio to not only pay $2.2 million, but also to stop trying to gather information about customers' television viewing habits without the direct consent of said viewers. A lawsuit filed by both the FTC and the state of New Jersey alleges that Vizio built systems into its television sets—over 11 million such sets at last report—in a bid to gather “...highly-specific, second-by-second information about television viewing.”

Reports suggest that Vizio then took that information and added it to information from another company to produce some almost shockingly detailed information about television viewing, down to points like age, income, sex and more. Vizio is also required to delete the data already obtained before March 1, 2017.

Vizio doesn't have to admit any kind of fault as part of this settlement, and notes that the settlement has essentially established what Vizio general counsel Jerry Huang called “...a new standard for best industry privacy practices for the collection and analysis of data collected from today's Internet-connected televisions and other home devices.”

Perhaps the big problem here is that Vizio was long the bargain alternative in televisions; a quick-and-dirty look at Best Buy's sale ad for the week reveals that Vizio's 54.6 inch 4K television sells for about $300 less than a comparable 55 inch 4K television from LG. There are other differences, sure, but the key takeaway should be that Vizio is the bargain entry point. This in turn means that bargain hunters were basically being lured in by lower prices to be used as fodder for a massive data mining operation, and all without anyone's knowledge or consent. There are some that would call that outright exploitative, and may well color future buying decisions, crippling the Vizio brand. Who wants to buy a television that may be reporting content choices back to its bosses?

I'm concerned about what this settlement will mean—how many Vizio features won't be accessible unless the user agrees to sign his or her data privacy away?—but it's certainly a step in the right direction. Information gathering should never be done without consent, and consent should come with benefits beyond getting a television for a price somewhat lower than comparable market releases.




Edited by Alicia Young

Contributing Writer

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Related Articles

6 Challenges of 5G, and the 9 Pillars of Assurance Strategy

By: Special Guest    9/17/2018

To make 5G possible, everything will change. The 5G network will involve new antennas and chipsets, new architectures, new KPIs, new vendors, cloud di…

Read More

Putting the Flow into Workflow, Paessler and Briefery Help Businesses Operate Better

By: Cynthia S. Artin    9/14/2018

The digital transformation of business is generating a lot of value, through more automation, more intelligence, and ultimately more efficiency.

Read More

From Mainframe to Open Frameworks, Linux Foundation Fuels Up with Rocket Software

By: Special Guest    9/6/2018

Last week, at the Open Source Summit, hosted by The Linux Foundation, the Open Mainframe Project gave birth to Zowe, introduced a new open source soft…

Read More

Unified Office Takes a Trip to the Dentist Office

By: Cynthia S. Artin    9/6/2018

Not many of us love going to see the dentist, and one company working across unified voice, productivity and even IoT systems is out to make the exper…

Read More

AIOps Outfit Moogsoft Launches Observe

By: Paula Bernier    8/30/2018

Moogsoft Observe advances the capabilities of AIOps to help IT teams better manage their services and applications in the face of a massive proliferat…

Read More