By Christiane Cordero

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Smart televisions are becoming increasingly popular, in part because of the convenience of having television channels and streaming services connected to one device.

But it comes at a cost.

Automatic content recognition is a technical term to describe what happens behind the screen: Television manufacturers have partnered with firms to track what each viewer watches, and when.

Because smart TVs, along with several other devices, are connected to a viewer’s wireless internet, the companies have access to everything else on that internet connection.

Brad Nigh, of the cybersecurity firm FR Secure, says companies have to be very careful with the Federal Trade Commission rules, which specifies what companies can do with the data they collect.

In this case, the companies don’t sell the information, rather advertisers will pay them and the tracking company will send the advertisement directly to the consumer’s other internet-connected devices, such as a smart phone.

Part of the FTC rules also state that instead of opting out of this feature, users must opt in.

“By default, when you turn on your TV, it’s going to be asking if you want to use this ACR technology,” Nigh said. “They don’t always call it that exactly, but by default, they’re going to ask you to do it. And they want targeted ads. It’s more efficient for them.”

Users are divided.

Some find targeted ads useful since they cater to specific interests, while others are not sold on the idea of having another layer of personal information out as part of their digital footprint.

Nigh said either stance is fine, as long as the consumer knows the stakes.

“Are you willing to allow a third party to see everything you’re watching?” he asks. “All the video games you’re playing, what movies you’re watching, what TV shows you’re watching, in order to have ads that are more relevant to your interest?”

Christiane Cordero


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