back to article Vizio coughs up $2.2m after its smart TVs spied on millions of families

California electronics maker Vizio will cough up $2.2m after its smart TVs spied on millions of people. America's trade watchdog, the FTC, said today the payment will settle a complaint filed by the state of New Jersey accusing Vizio of violating privacy regulations: the biz had collected the viewing habits of 11 million …

  1. frank ly Silver badge

    A can of questions

    "The $2.2m Vizio has to fork out will be split between the FTC and the New Jersey state Department of Consumer Affairs. The TV maker will also be required to delete any customer information it collected before March 1, when it began to notify people of the data slurping."

    What about compensation for the 11 million people/families affected? Will the advertising agencies that bought the data also have to delete it and will Vizio have to therefore repay them? Is there any indication that the advertising agencies knew that the data they bought had been collected illegally? How many other companies are doing this?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A can of questions

      "What about compensation for the 11 million people/families affected?"

      Hahahahahahaha. Pull the other one.

    2. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: A can of questions

      You're thinking about it all wrong!

      It's still your data, we're just holding for you in the Cloud!


      How many other companies are doing this? Well we know Google tracks users across websites which aren't Google. Adobe was doing the same thing for PDFs - every page turned. The Oz government picks up your DNS queries and connection requests if you live there.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Adobe was doing the same thing

        Still are.

        Any ebook using ePub using Adobe DRM.

        Amazon also does the same unless you turn it off. Amazon eReader App on Android tries to call home ANYWAY, even if you are not using the reader, so I removed it.

        Kobo does it on non-DRM ePub unless you turn it off.

        This is one reason I remove DRM. I don't share copies.

        I only use my "smart phone" as a feature phone, Data isn't enabled on my mobile package and I've only turned on WiFi a couple of times to try apps that allegedly work without Internet. Same with my tablet.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Adobe was doing the same thing

          Just use a vpn app like NoRoot firewall and block those apps from sending any data.

    3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      It's official!

      According to the FTC, privacy is only worth 20 cents.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: It's official!

        "According to the FTC, privacy is only worth 20 cents."

        Even so, it'd be nice to see Vizio forced to pay that 20 cents to each of the affected owners :-)

  2. Oengus Silver badge

    Becoming "standard practice"

    The hardware maker has updated its firmware to alert people to the collection of their private information, allowing them to turn this so-called feature off or on.

    How long before this tracking is standard practice, across all manufacturers, and you accept their terms and conditions by simply purchasing their product? I fear that all TVs in the future will be "smart" and require an internet connection that allows them to "dial home" before they will even display an image.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Becoming "standard practice"

      Paraphrasing Arnault Amaric for the 21st century.

      Firewall eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.

      1. tony2heads

        Re: Becoming "standard practice"

        I thought that it was 'Arnaud Amalric'

        See wikipedia

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Becoming "standard practice"

      Microsoft, already there...

    3. Tikimon Silver badge

      Re: Becoming "standard practice"

      I've already posted about this, but here we go for the ones who were lucky enough to miss it.

      This WILL become standard practice, encouraged by our governments. The Spying Internet Connected Television is exactly a telescreen from Orwell's 1984. The cops and spooks are already monitoring us via the Personal Trackers (phones) most of us carry. They track and record our internet activity and communications. They must be drooling with lust for the ability to watch, listen, and record us in our very homes. Also, think of all the TVs in public spaces, those will extend the public surveillance already in place. The government won't stop this, and they will encourage it every way they can.

      I truly wish I was wrong, but I'll lay cold hard cash on that bet.

      Guess who bought a Truly Smart TV (no internet, I refuse to call that "dumb") last month?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Serves them right ..

    .. collecting information on Americans. If they had done it on foreigners aliens it would have been OK as soon as they struck a deal with the NSA.


  4. Herby Silver badge

    Where does the fine go??

    To the government, of course. Do any owners of Visio TVs get a penny? Nope!

    Typical government. They get the $$$ and the "injured" get zilch! Maybe I should copyright my personal information, so I can charge a fee!

    1. Red Bren

      Re: Where does the fine go??

      "Typical government. They get the $$$ and the "injured" get zilch!"

      "The Government" isn't some secret organisation that you have no connection to, unless you avoid paying tax and don't vote. That money is going to you and every other citizen of your country, minus what you owe in tax if you're not avoiding it.

      Conversely, as a UK taxpayer I'm facing a fine of £50 to the US Department of Justice (on top of many other fines) because my government decided to spend my money to bail out a failed bank facing multiple criminal investigations for its fraudulent and reckless business practices, and is now leaving me to pick up a share of the bill, until dust settles and it can be sold back into private hands at a knock down price. Meanwhile, I'm being told I'm living beyond my means if I want my children's school to have computers or my local hospital to deal with accidents and emergencies.

      Sorry, I've hijacked my own comment for a bit of a rant!

  5. Down not across


    Vizio harvested surveillance on people and their families so precise, it knew exactly what you were watching, second by second, and even took copies of the watched video, according to prosecutors.

    As if the slurp of the what and when isn't bad enough, actually copying what was watched should really open them up to all kinds of lawsuits considering it is quite feasible some of the material watched could be private/personal (no, I don't mean porn).

    It could also have cost the customer money if they were on any kind of metered connection.

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: Nasty

      "considering it is quite feasible some of the material watched could be private/personal"

      Private/personal or not - it will almost certainly be someone's copyright material. Someone should send in Mickey Mouse to deal with them.

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        Re: Nasty

        And what if you had your comuter hooked up? Well, they potentially have copies of your banking information, all your personal details, anything you have looked at. Lovely...

  6. heyrick Silver badge

    Fuck you

    That's what this says to me.

    How many people were spied upon? How much was paid? Doesn't that work out to be about $0.25 per person? My god, one could almost cost this into the business plan...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fuck you

      20c/TV = 10c/TV/Year, something tells me they sold the data for waaaaaay more than that!

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Fuck you


      Also what about Android TV.

      TV sets where YOU CAN NOT SKIP agree with Google to use the set at all. Even though these sets sold by companies that used to use their own BETTER GUIs on a Linux base.

      All so they can market them with "Apps".

      Really there should be a fine of $100 per TV sold. All of World. I can't think of any democratic country where such behaviour as Vizio and Google is legal.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Walk out of electronics stores now. Everyone there is a zombie

    <Store>: No we only sell Smart TV's, why don't you want smart anyway?

    <Me>: Samsung & Philips Smart TV's openly spy on you then embed Ads.

    <Store>: <blank expression like brain just removed>

    ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

    <Store>: <Eh, can we help with something else, got new Lenovo laptops in>

    <Me>: Great which come with Linux, but without Superfish slurping?

    <Store>: <total zombie look>

    ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

    <Store>: <Hey, we've got the latest Samsung tablets and smartphones?>

    <Me>: Great more Android spyware... I think I'll pass....

    <Store>: Well, have a nice day!

  8. Mephistro Silver badge

    Although i profoundly dislike the death penalty...

    ... at times like this I'd like it to be applied to criminals like these*. By burning at the stake if it can be. I find drawing and quartering is a little too gory for good taste. Oh, well, if you insist, I'll settle for the traitor's wheel.


    *Note: By "criminals like these" I meant Vizio's management, not the Government. Hmmm... now that I think of it...

    1. harmjschoonhoven

      Re: Although i profoundly dislike the death penalty...

      A dislike is not enough. The death penalty is utterly wrong, simply because miscarriages of justice - which are intrinsically unavoidable - can never, never, never be corrected.

      1. L05ER

        Re: Although i profoundly dislike the death penalty...

        like money corrects missing out on your children growing up... not to mention the possibility of being killed in prison.

        if the burden of proof is high enough, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the ultimate punishment.

        1. Mephistro Silver badge

          Re: Although i profoundly dislike the death penalty... (@ L05ER)

          "if the burden of proof is high enough, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the ultimate punishment."

          There are several issues with that assertion:

          1) The amount of proof necessary to condemn someone is a very subjective concept. Proof can be lost, misplaced or misinterpreted, witnesses can be wrong or dishonest, ... As an example, please consider that study from the beginning of the noughties, where DNA analysis was performed on evidence from old cases that took place when DNA tests didn't exist or weren't been used due to costs, and the closest thing to them was a blood type analysis. A 20% of prisoners in the death row in that period were found to be innocent. How many innocents are there right now?

          2) Furthermore, the judges, prosecutors, policemen and juries can receive lots of pressure from news media, the public opinion, the voters (as in the USA some of those positions are elected)...

          3) Other studies from longer ago arrived to the conclusion that the main factor for a defendant to be declared guilty-or to escape a death sentence- was the salary of his lawyers. Which correlates to the defendant's income. So if both a rich guy and a poor guy are accused of a crime they didn't commit, the rich guy has a better lawyer that knows his trade and is able to find and use any loose ends in the case, and will interrogate the witnesses for hours trying to find anything dodgy in their stories. In comparison, an elcheapo lawyer* will accompany you the day of the execution, sit amongst the public and display a very sad face. Sometimes.

          In my opinion, the death penalty will be ethically sound to use the day that either:

          - We are able to resurrect any wrongly executed person.

          - Closed cases are continuously reviewed, re-investigated and updated when new evidence is found or errors in the procedure are found.

          - The justice system that dictates the death penalty is totally honest and not affected by all those issues I listed in the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs.

          Fortunately, we only need to fulfill two of these three requisites. ;-)

          *Note Elcheapo lawyer= the only one most of us can pay. This applies to anyone below the High Bourgeoisie level. and for many HB types it could be financially crippling, but even so, it beats being publicly executed, IMO.

      2. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: Although i profoundly dislike the death penalty... (@ harmjschoonhoven)

        Dude, you must be the hoot at parties!

        On a -slightly more- serious note: Regarding the death penalty, you're preaching to the chorus here. ;-)

      3. Milton Silver badge

        Re: Although i profoundly dislike the death penalty...

        "A dislike is not enough. The death penalty is utterly wrong, simply because miscarriages of justice - which are intrinsically unavoidable - can never, never, never be corrected."

        I'm curious. Why would anyone—anyone at all—downvote the above statement? (2 thumbs down and 3 up, at my time of writing.)

        Do downvoters think it's ok for a few innocent people to get fried, so long as some guilty ones do? Do you think it doesn't happen, perhaps? If, so DNA has some big news for you.

        Or is it that you cannot imagine it will happen to you, or your brother or son? That being convicted and sentenced to death for a crime you did not commit only happens to other people, who don't matter?

        In the DNA age the USA has seen a slew of exonerations of people who were either on death row or had been convicted of capital offences. Does any sane person need a better reason not to support the barbarism of the death penalty?

        PS There's no evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why. Murderers fall into two categories: premeditated, planned and therefore not intending to get caught anyway; or uncontrollably angry spur-of-the-moment actions, which obviously precludes any thought of consequences. No society can sanely say "Killing people is wrong. To show how wrong it is, we're gonna do exactly that." Even if that weren't morally bankrupt, it's madness because it just doesn't work.

        1. Mephistro Silver badge

          Re: Although i profoundly dislike the death penalty...(@ Milton)

          "I'm curious. Why would anyone—anyone at all—downvote the above statement?[...] "

          In this case, I think we're watching the "Anonymous Down Voter Syndrome", ADVS for short. This syndrome usually consists in some halfwit that either personally dislikes you for not sharing his worldview, or for having stepped on his toe on a different thread, or disagrees with your comment but can't find good arguments against it. Mind you, it's not ADVS if the downvoter at least answers to your comment and tries to counter your arguments, or if another commentard has done so already. I strongly suspect that in true ADVS cases, the Anonymous Down Voter knows at some level (probably subconsciously) that he is full of sh|t and that his arguments wouldn't resist a discussion.

          Personally, If I down vote a comment, I like to explain publicly why, unless another commentard has already done so.

        2. Swarthy Silver badge

          Re: Although i profoundly dislike the death penalty...

          I can tell you why I almost down-voted it: Because it took an obviously flippant comment and castigated the poster for not taking their personal hobby-horse seriously enough.

          I agree whole-heatedly with Mephistro on this one.

    2. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: Although i profoundly dislike the death penalty...

      I could find myself in complete support for the Death Penalty for Corporations. No human being needs to die; but since corporations are "people" could we subject them to capital punishment?

      I'm thinking to kill humanely execute a corporation: The Board is disbanded, and not allowed to join in any business ventures together, the CxOs are all fired (and fined 1/2 of their golden parachute), and the company is put into receivership/bankruptcy until such time as someone re-incorporates it with Articles of Incorporation which specifically forbid whatever it was that brought this punishment down on them (and all of the other things that had triggered this punishment in the past - No "reincarnating" for a minor offence to get out of a major one)

  9. Stevie Silver badge


    When viewing this outrage within the context of the stunning levels to which the IoT has been rooted to Hellenbach, one is drawn to the inevitable conclusion that all one's Game of Thrones and Fail Video addictions are, in fact, belong to lightbulb.

  10. Tessier-Ashpool


    If you're going to go all 1984 and have telescreens that spy on the proletariat, do it properly and fit a well hidden camera. Samsung TVs, if you remember, had half a go by slurping living room audio and sending it back to base, but they stupidly got found out. No, you need a bit more smarts if you want to do Big Brother properly.

  11. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    First, we kill all the lawyers?

    I'm thinking Shakespeare had it wrong: let's start with the advertising agencies...

    1. Potemkine Silver badge

      Re: First, we kill all the lawyers?

      Please add bankers, insurers and most of auto mechanics to your list, TIA!

  12. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Is that

    one of Elvis' old TV sets in the picture?

  13. tfewster Silver badge

    Double dipping

    Vizio: If you want to slurp consumers data and sell it, give the medium (TVs) away for free along with an obscure EULA like those nice chaps at Facebook & Google do.

  14. Potemkine Silver badge

    20 cents

    $ 2.2 millions for 11 millions of TV sets, this ruling values users privacy at 20 cents.

    Am I the only one to find that number ridiculously small?

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: 20 cents

      Oh, you can guarantee they made a fuckton more than that per user from the data.

      I vote that fines should be the turnover made from selling such data, then increase it by at least one order of magnitude.

      Made $55m in data sales? That'll be $550m fine payable immediately, or C level execs get a minimum of a year in jail, thanks.

      A couple of high profile major profit losses (or, ideally, bankruptcies and jail time for some of the smaller outfits who take the piss like this) would focus the mind a bit.

      You know, you'd hope.

      Well, I doubt it. I just want to watch the world burn.

      Steven R

  15. Hans 1 Silver badge

    "Consumers have no reason to expect that defendants engaged in second-by-second tracking of consumer viewing data by surreptitiously decoding content and sending it back to their own servers,"

    Well, they should. Smart TV's are not to be connected to the intertubes, never, ever, under any circumstances. That reminds me, I still have to rip the WIFI antenna out of mine!

    1. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Simple just don't enter your wifi password on the tv.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not adding it to your network might work for now, but soon enough the ToS will insist on an always on connection or it won't function at all, or they'll build 4G connectivity into everything and tout it as a feature.

        All of this to pimp ads no one wants; it amazes me the marketing types aren't bright enough to notice that every time they rack up the level of intrusion, the pushback gets firmer and louder, and the collective dislike of their garbage grows exponentially.

  16. Chris G Silver badge

    Social justice

    Perhaps in addition to a serious fine (add a zero at least) the idea of a public pillory or the stocks could be brought back so that the public can pelt those responsible with rotten tomatoes or anything else they happen to have that reflects their ire.

  17. EveryTime Silver badge

    Remember, copyright violations such as sending an image of a unmatched program are OK if done in mass by a corporation that wants to sell your private viewing habits. But if an individual makes a single unauthorized copy, that deserves the harshest penalty allowed by law.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Vizio harvested surveillance on people and their families so precise, it knew exactly what you were watching, second by second, and even _took copies of the watched video_ according to prosecutors.

    Isn't that piracy? Why aren't MPAA and RIAA on this with their prosecutions and fines?

  19. Mr Dogshit

    Never fucking heard of it

    What is this Vizio? Is it like Microsoft Visio?

    1. Tikimon Silver badge

      Re: Never fucking heard of it

      Store brand televisions.

    2. JCitizen

      Re: Never fucking heard of it

      They are a very popular cut rate brand selling out of the discount stores here in the US - can't verify any other locations in the world. It was started in the US by a Chinese businessman, and was bought out by a Chinese company LeEco.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    $2.2 million Now what did they earn by selling the data?

  21. JCitizen

    What is the difference?

    Every since the MPAA required DRM spyware and hardware in every blu-ray, HDTV, cable card, HD sound system 2.1 or higher, etc., etc. They've been given carte blanche to spy on citizens all over the world!

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