How Smart TVs in Millions of U.S. Homes Track More Than What’s On Tonight

Samba TV, which has deals to put its software on sets made by about a dozen TV brands, uses viewing data to make personalized show recommendations. But that’s not the big draw for advertisers.


Comments: 203

  1. I have a "smart" tv. I did not program it or do whatever one is supposed to do with it. I spoke to a Spectrum technician and he told me he read up on these devices and that they have the capability of monitoring the users and what they watch. He advised me to "leave it as is."
    I took his advice.

  2. Spectrum TV also monitors what you watch, when you watch and in what room you watch, now that all their TVs have to be attached to separate interactive boxes.
    Cable and satellite homes are tracked by another ratings company - ComScore - and that information is sold to ad agencies, media outlets and advertisers.

  3. Any expectation of privacy is gone. When we surrender our common sense, we surrender a lot. The industry is intentionally opaque and our institutions designed to regulate and reform are duplicitous. Wake up America before it's all gone.

  4. Welcome to 1984, except that in 2018, we voluntarily install telescreens in our homes, and thank Big Brother for the convenience of constant surveillance.

  5. Not to mention, listening / location devices, carried with us, everywhere we go.

    O Big Brother, where art thou?
    Right here.

  6. Is a smart TV necessary for this kind of tracking? I've been assuming that anyone using modern interactive cable and satellite systems has been tracked in a similar fashion all along.

  7. "to create benefit for the consumer as well as Samba"-Of course not! The only benefit is to Samba.

  8. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

    Look at the market capitalizations of Apple, Google (aka Alphabet), Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft:

    $910 billion; $771 billion; $828 billion; $565 billion; $767 billion.

    The are billions with a "B".

    Those values don't come, in large part, from sales to the end users of their products. This is especially true with Google and Facebook.

    Given that these companies are held up by politicians and business leaders alike as exemplars of the dynamism of modern American technological prowess and innovation, it hardly seems fair to single out Samba TV for wanting to get in on the game.

    We, who once were citizens, are now consumers. But even there the paradigm is shifting: As we continue to pay for services like Netflix, we are increasingly the product not the customer.

    If we value the freedom that was earned by the hard toil and blood of our forebears, we should think twice before we acquiesce to the opaque consent language we encounter almost daily on the internet. Freedoms hard earned can, alas, be too easily relinquished.

  9. Agree. Also, I don't want to be the lunch, breakfast or dinner, free or otherwise. The existence of these services and this form of corporate mass surveilance is only possible by the abject failure of he people who are supposed to represent us. I call upon the Senators and House members from New York - to initiate legislation that requires a clear opt-in only (default = off) for such devices and services, forbids withholding of goods and services from all who don't opt-in, and mandates the ability to physically disable or easily remove "features" such as cameras and microphones from TV sets that are sold in the US!


  10. “The thing that really struck me was this seems like quite an enormous ask for what seems like a silly, trivial feature,” Mr. Kitchen said. “You appear to opt into a discovery-recommendation service, but what you’re really opting into is pervasive monitoring on your TV.”

    I am darn tired of the on-going nefarious attempts of various advertisers trying to handle or manipulate me based on what I watch on TV or view on the internet. I understand that “Marketers are forever hungry to get their products in front of the people most likely to buy them” and that it’s a “cutthroat business” but I don’t appreciate the backdoor, sneaky ways companies like Samba Interactive TV operate. I do not need these people to “recommend shows and provide special offers” no need their information about various television programs because that’s what I have the NYT for – I read their reviews. I don’t want a “Smart TV” or some other “Interactive TV” application to explain or recommend something I can determine and figure out on my own.

    When I plop my bigger than life butt on the sofa after working 12 hour days, I should not have to worry nor be concerned that my choice of entertainment or viewing decisions are being discretely monitored by some company lurking in the background. Enough is enough with this quasi secret intrusion stuff. I read about “Big Brother” in college. I never thought I would actually be living it in my vintage years.

    Thank you NYT for running this important story.

  11. Welcome to the new Max Headroom episode. It will get worse until you get off the couch and "make noise" - as my Marine Sargent used to say.

  12. When the president of the country is giving out fake data points and plainly lying does any of this stand a chance. We are professing a fake and lying culture, it starts from the POTUS to all the way down. For many in the population these are “smart” people, if you cannot cheat and lie then you are not smart, go figure.

  13. By the way, does your teevee have a microphone?

    Because wouldn't it be delightfully help-ful, if only advertisers could get the instant feedback that listening in to all your conversations would give them.

    Heck, it might even save you a few bucks off exorbitant fees....

  14. Glad I have "dumb" TV and get mocked for not having Apps including GPS in my 'smart" phone.

  15. Sweetheart, I don't want to scare you but if you do have a smart phone there is a GPS you cannot disable already built into it.

  16. This sort of thing is endless. Everybody is always looking to make money off of our information, that is really none of their business. But they have made it their business model. Why can't they just leave us alone. I hate being constantly bombarded with commercials.

  17. I carried my TV out to the corner with others-waste 8 years ago. I'm free!!!

  18. No you aren't. Take a look at the ads on your computer screen; they are tailored just for you.

  19. Do you have a smart phone? You obviously post on the internet. Do you attend any major events? Do you drive?

    You are not free. You are just being monitored with other devices in other ways.

  20. I would happily pay more for email or other online services such as internet-adapted t.v.s and other devices if I could protect my privacy, or at least limit advertisers (and others) access to my PBS habits.

    As it is, I try to limit online services to those I actually need - such as email. No facebook, no twitter, no linked in, no smart phones -- I try to avoid as many "free" services that I can.

    It's an old refrain, but if the service is free, you are the product. Advertisers already know way too much about me, down to the size of shoe I wear. Why give them more if you don't have to?

  21. Unfortunately, even if you pay you're quite often the product. They just say that it subsidises the price, and refuse to let you buy it without tracking.

  22. Someone ought to start an "Opt Out of Everything" service, for a fee. I would pay for that. I am tired of Google and a bunch of other companies asking me to share my location every time I search. Is there any way to stop this? It's creepy and annoying to have to keep saying "no" over and over again. Who keeps asking after the mark has said "no" repeatedly? Abusers and three year olds. And now, tech companies.

    In a similar vein, I would pay a yearly subscription fee to stop auto-correct in Microsoft Word, Excel (Open Office) and every program that foists it upon me. Is there a "don't auto-correct anything, ever" option? If so, I have never found it.

  23. You can, actually, buy an e-mail service if you wish to wean yourself from the 'free' monitoring of google and yahoo. A lot of us have. It's 20-50 bucks a year - well worth it.

  24. Don't worry baby, it's gonna be alright
    Uncertainly can be a guiding light
    I hear voices, ridiculous voices
    Out in the slipstream
    Let's go, let's go overground
    Take your head out of the mud baby

  25. What your article seemed to miss is how this works for other devices. Does the person setting up the TV have the authority to grant it access to other devices on the network that belong to other people? Perhaps friends or tenants or neighbors?

    This is creepy technology and it could get worse if the company decides to simply put consent into their license agreement instead of giving people the option to opt-out on-screen.

  26. Samba TV's client sits on the chip that runs your smart TV. It can't see your neighbors info.

  27. I am always amazed that articles about intrusive innovations like this never mention the old TV series Max Headroom. The idea of instantaneous ratings and constantly flowing data was central to the dystopian society in that series, even though the Internet wasn't dreamed of yet. Dig out those Dvds (which took decades to be released) and see what else is in store for us.

  28. Wonderful Dave! My hero was Blank Reg.
    One of the most prophetic shows about the Networked society . Thank you!

  29. My Microsoft logon screen for my computer reminded me that it knows my favorite bookstore. I found this clever since I use Firefox as my browser.

  30. Let's face it! If you have any internet connected device, you are being tracked! That includes all your actions and locations. This is practically beyond Brave New World and 1984!

  31. How many of you really care about these home technologies (TV, Fridge, Lights, security,power and gas,Alexa, Google Assistants) vacuuming your household's data into their ad bag? I haven't seen any cry for monitoring this activity. Can some one answer this?
    I've been monitoring the traffic of things in our home and it is a bit disconcerting. BUT I don't think anyone really cares ... until it hits the 4th Amendment rights to our personal info. Think about that.

  32. My data is mine. If one of these advertisers wish to use it why don't they have to license it from me, the owner? If any company simply takes it and sells or leases it one must ask if that isn't theft? I know if I were to take and sell something that didn't belong I'd go to jail for theft. Are these companies protected by virtue of campaign donations?

    If one must use these "smart" devices then opt out of everything. It is long past time for us to begin following the European philosophy regarding the right to be forgotten and data ownership.

  33. The Trumpublican majority congress legislated any "rights" to your data and made it explicitly legal for digital companies to sell your data to third parties.

    MAGA...for Corporations!

  34. "why don't they have to license it from me, the owner?"

    Because they can get it for free from 90% of viewers.

    10,000 words and they're covered, even if those viewers accept without reading.

  35. Ho hum. Are people really surprised by this outcome? And so what? I blow past the advertisements I am getting on my i-phone. I don't understand what the big deal is here.

    Advertising agencies are a large part of how our economy works by enticing people to buy products. What is the issue here?

    And anyone who participates on FaceBook, SnapChat or any of the other internet information platforms must know by this time that your information is "out there." People who want to return to the days of yesteryear when there were three networks on television (that went off the air at midnight!), and where people still sent hand-written thank you notes need to wake up. Brave new world.

  36. Len you dont get it -- the software in the TV is reading the pixels on your TV in real-time. That's an all new level of penetration into our homes.

  37. Wait until your data is compromised and trust me at some point in your life it will happen. Let's see if you think it's a big deal at that point..you may think otherwise ;)

  38. We don't need smart TVs and refrigerators and Alexas and Siris. It's incredibly dismaying that so many people are willing to give up their personal information like this. It would be fine if it didn't effectively condone the gathering of personal information in virtually every online interaction, leaving those of us who don't want our information collected with the choice of not going online at all, or spending significant time establishing privacy protocols that do little to stem the tide of invasion by the private sector.

  39. I have friends constantly carping about maintaining their privacy. But give up their Siri equipped I-phones or their Alexa? The horror! They are just so convenient.

  40. I can’t remember the last time I clicked on something that was ‘suggested’ for me.

  41. B, many many TV viewers do -- millions of consumers.

    That's why advertisers and providers of "content" do this.

  42. I'm sure you clicked on items that you didn't know were suggested for you but were.

  43. This is story is far behind actual events. The tracking of viewers and creating a psychographic profile has, by all indications, been going on for years. So, this from the news item is a bit ironic:

    "Samba TV has even offered advertisers the ability to base their targeting on whether people watch conservative or liberal media outlets and which party’s presidential debate they watched."

    They aren't the only ones. Reporters and writers who cover the presidential campaigns have been alluding to the ability of campaigns to profile voters and then target them with specific messages designed to get their votes. None of the books I have read about recent campaigns, however, has provided details about how the profiles are created.

    It is my belief that cable companies have been selling this information all along. I have written about this here on the Times online repeatedly.

    We bought Samsung televisions within the last couple of years. When setting up the screens, there is a dialog box asking the owner to opt-in to tracking. It is easy to get in and difficult to remove once checked affirmatively.

    This practice appears to be happening on many fronts. Corporate America wants to created detailed information about people that can be used for many different purposes in addition to marketing. These data bases represent a great hidden power in the hands of people who have no concern about how they are used.

  44. Doug, you have pretty much nailed it. But when you say, "...specific messages designed to get their votes," you also missed a key strategy that was definitely used in the last big election.

    It's not only about getting people to vote a certain way; it's also about getting others--who they are pretty certain will not be swayed from the opposite side--to stay home and NOT VOTE--a kind of voter suppression. It's about manipulating people into feeling so disgusted (or helpless) that they stay home on election day or into voting for a 3rd-party candidate to take votes away from the front runner on the opposite side.

    Specially targeted ads in carefully chosen districts in swing states can have just enough push to put your guy over the finish line...

    These are some of the tactics that the Russians who interfered in our elections used; the question is whom did they get the contact info from?

  45. While Sapna Maheshawari does a great job of outlining the privacy considerations inherent in Samba and similar automatic content recognition (ACR) systems, there is another potential use to the technology -- a new and improved system for "TV ratings." As a former Nielsen family, I have seen first-hand how Nielsen's antiquated approach yields predictably skewed data. Nielsen, first and foremost, tracks live TV viewing. While they make some token efforts to track streaming or pre-recorded content, their "bread and butter" remains the quick-turn around (often 30 minutes to a few hours) statistics on the share of viewers who watched programs in each time slot. In the year I was a Nielsen home, my household probably watched a total of less than 20 hours of live TV. It is not that we did not watch TV; we did not watch live TV, opting to stream on our schedule rather than be a slave to the broadcasters' schedule. I suspect that an increasingly large percentage of households have similar viewing habits. Nielsen's system 80-year old model disproportionately reflects the preferences of declining percentage of non-tech savvy viewers. Due to it market dominance, Nielsen's data exaggerates the popularity of programs tailored to that declining demographic. With proper privacy controls, perhaps Samba or some other system could be used to develop data on what all viewers watch, rather than just a small sub-set of those people who run their lives by the daily TV listings.

  46. In the longer term it will get even creepier. It's not unreasonable to assume that responsible companies (NOT FACEBOOK) will take reasonable care with this data. The problem comes from the fact that the data collected lives forever. So, over time you have to assume that every company that buys the data or inherits it from some other company is also going to be responsible. You also have to assume that this valuable data doesn't get stolen and ends up in hands of people who are NOT responsible. That's what is going to happen. All, this to perhaps get a recommendation for a TV show to watch - not worth it.

  47. WE THE PEOPLE must demand that any manufacturer who puts "smart" chips in their product MUST inform customers and make it simple to disable them.

    The attacks on our personal lives have become very sinister. Marketing people seem to think anything goes. Their Robber Baron money masters - who control everything digital and every privately held utility and communication vehicle - keep thinking up ways to invade our lives.

    This MUST not stand in America or anywhere in the world. They are supposed to make our lives easier with the products WE buy. Instead they are weaponizing them.

    A very simple solution is to ban "PUSH" technology where people have to opt out. WE own the products and WE must be able to control them.

    Time to regulate the hell out of technology before it destroys us.

  48. N, that's not how it works. IN the USA, until federal level laws are made to protect personal data privacy this is all perfectly legal. In the EU there are personal data privacy laws, In the USA there are none -- zippo.

    There's the law about releasing personal medical history and that is it in the USA. Otherwise your personal data is free game to businesses.

  49. "WE own the products and WE must be able to control them."

    My, what a quaint idea!
    They own US.

    Welcome to unbridled/unhinged Capitalism.

  50. On the one hand, our cable boxes have already been doing this literally for decades. Doesnt make it right at all -- but there's a long time precedent for cable companies tracking its TV customers and selling that info to other companies. For some reason this article dances around that issue.

    On the other hand, this is exactly the reason I dont setup my TV for internet wireless or physical internet cable. If you really want TV streaming, then use a Roku (which also collects your viewing data) and connect the Roku to your TV with a video (only cable). Far from perfect but better.

    Similar topic. Anyone would allow a device in one's home with an always-on microphone like Amazon's or Apple's devices should really seriously re-think how badly they need such a device.

  51. I believe this goes beyond what the cable companies have been doing with cable boxes for decades. These new technologies not only analyze what is on-screen, regardless of video source (e.g., cable box, DVD player, game console, etc.), but also maps and collects data on all other connected devices. From Samba's website: "Mapped devices are identified with an anonymized ID so they can continue to be tracked even when they are used out of the house." This new technology is taking user data collection, tracking, and selling to a whole new level. It is far more broad and far more granular than what set-top boxes do.

  52. "...using gaming apps to gain access to smartphone microphones and listen for audio signals in TV ads and shows..."

    A device that is using the microphone on your laptop, cell phone, or any other device can also listen to every conversation or phone call that you make...

    Even if you are not using the device at the time. All it needs to be is powered up.

    Think about that.

    Think carefully about what that means regarding a free society,
    the hacking of our elections by foreign governments, an authoritarian WH, and a government/court system that is less and less responsive to anything but the 1% and corporate interests.

  53. "The privacy policy, which provided more details about the information collected through the software, was more than 4,000 words, and the terms exceeded 6,500 words."

    This describes pretty much every Internet transaction of any kind these days. Download an app, sign up for a service, buy a product, whatever - we are confronted in each case by a new magnum opus of legalese that seems to have been crafted by armies of corporate lawyers. If these things are binding contracts then by now we all have entangled ourselves in ways and to a degree that we can't even imagine.

    I wonder if there could be an agency to negotiate those "agreements" on behalf of ordinary people, and without the approval of which a company would not be allowed to present the language to the public for acceptance. Part of the process would be to provide a plain-terms explanation for everything in the agreement. Downside: The inevitable backlog and consequent delays imposed on companies. Okay, suggestions for better solutions are welcome.

  54. Rather than an agency, wouldn't it be nice if, like the government when they propose new regulations, businesses had to provide a public comment period on the content of any disclaimers and privacy policies they produce/modify.

  55. Just one suggestion. We should be required to "opt in" for any data to be collected and cataloged. Just like we have to opt in for a 401K program.

  56. I read through the thousands of words. They seem to be worried about a class action suit against them. And they wanted me to agree to "arbitration" if I wanted to sue them.

    Seems like the European regulations have got their attention.

  57. I certainly don't want tracking of what I watch and when by Samba, Rumba or Roomba, or any other "service". Even more concerning is that this scanning and tracking extends far beyond this kind of software. It beggers belief that the only resonably capable TV sets of today - basically, all good 4K sets- are so-called smart TVs that are very "chatty" by design; Vizio was just one that got caught. Many of the higher-end sets nowadays also have built-in microphones and cameras, providing ready access to your living room or bed room, if that's where you are watching. Think about it: it has to listen to you all the time, how else could you turn it on with your voice ? Some find that convenient - I find it creepy.
    Maybe this will get the government's attention: People with security clearances also watch TV. Thus, any "feature-rich" TV set is a ready-made listening post for phone and in-room conversations. No more need to break in to install fancy bugs - it sits right there, looking at you. It has happened already: In Europe, LG got called out when its "smart" TVs were caught listening to, watching and relaying information back to LG without users' consent.
    I really wish that any set sold in the US would include, by law, a global "disable all such features" option, or, better, parallel models with all the picture processing power but minus the camera and microphones etc. could be had.

  58. I cannot tell you in the choice words I'd like in this short forum just how angry and frustrated I'm getting with this increasingly creepy obsession the business and advertising world has with clamping it's spyware onto just about anything and everything it gets it hands on, and, more importantly, without my implicit authorization. It's- stalking and harassing -pure and simple.

    Sadder (and perhaps scarier) for me, still, is the fact of the millions who are employed in these 'fields' of high tech data driven vacuuming, whether they're the coders or the analysts, seem to have not a one misgiving about how invasive their "technology" truly is to a lot of us. What kind of individuals go into a career in which their sole goal in life is to make millions sitting staring at a computer screen ten hours a day, thinking up ever more ways to 'spy' for their employers. It just defies everything I was taught, but worse, it sends chills down my humane and spiritual spine.

  59. And those who are targeting children are the lowest of the low.

  60. Another thing. "Smart" used to be expensive feature. Now it seems even modestly priced TVs are "smart", and it is next to impossible to find one that has the features you want without it also being "smart" - as I discovered when I set out to replace my "ancient" Samsung HD TV when it wouldn't power on. (A TV repair person was able to locate and replace a burned out component on the power supply board. So I still don't have a Smart TV).

    Can the "smart" functions be disabled? I've read in some reviews of Samsung TVs that they cannot - such as the suggestions (ads) that show up on the bottom of the screen.

  61. 'Can the "smart" functions be disabled?'

    A simple way to answer that would be to go to a store that sells "smart" TVs and look at the setup menu. There should be a section for network settings. See if there is a way to disable wireless (wifi) and Bluetooth. Disabling both should prevent the TV from connecting to the internet.

    A web search for "Samsung smart tv disable wireless" will also find some info.

  62. Indeed a few weeks ago, I searched on Newegg for a TV to replace an old one. Out of hundreds, exactly ONE was non-creepy, and it was well old and probably even out of stock, so some petition pressure is in order. (A petition, NOT a #petition. We do NOT need to legitimize also-creepy WhatsInstaFace and bigoted Twitter any further.)

    Don't connect creepy TVs to ethernet, nor add your Wi-Fi passwords to them, at minimum; and if the functions can be explicitly turned off, even better. Dead men and gagged marketers tell no tales.

  63. I imagine that most watchers would interpret "special offers" as an opportunity to receive discounts and exclusive deals. I wonder how many of them would realize that it actually means "targeted advertising". And there is no mention of other devices on their network unless they consult the 10,000 words of conditions available elsewhere.

    So much for transparency. "Con job" comes closer to it.

  64. Corporate software may have limited choices for the user but in the end all of the control of what the software does is with the corporation and their software developers.

    Clever wording about how non-invasive the software is or how little it collects are at best misleading resulting in massive amounts of personal choices & information being passed along to those so desperately trying to sell the users more things.

  65. The marketing-NOT-tech creeps strike again.

    Maybe someday I won't have to apologize for wanting to program non-creepy things by contrast. But the marketers push that day farther away.

    Bill Hicks had it right about them.

  66. We don't allow libraries to keep track of the books we checkout and sell the information to law enforcement, advertisers or politicians so why do we not treat smart tv information with the same protection?

  67. TVs are just the tip of the surveillance iceberg. Surveillance has been designed into a variety of internet-connected devices, computer operating systems, internet connection services, and programs. Unwarranted surveillance has become pervasive and insidious; the only solution is to hold our politicians accountable for not stopping it with a universal privacy law.

  68. I agree but unfortunately if they do nothing about Trump, the tariffs, the border etc. I doubt they will react to any of our needs.

  69. Technology is your friend, the people behind it only want what is best for you. They are trying to be helpful. That is why they keep track of what you watch, what you say in your own home, what you buy, when and who you call, text, pages you view on the internet and everything you do on social media. Just because you get helpful suggestions when you are out does not mean they are tracking you by your phone.

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

  70. I often use Apple’s Airplay feature to display my laptop or iPad screen on my TV. If I’m understanding the description of this technology, this company can now see my confidential documents by sampling pixels from the TV screen.

    I don’t know if the company’s on-screen notices and spokesman’s happy talk constitute actual fraud, but they certainly should. We need laws with civil and criminal penalties to protect us from anyone who try’s to con us into giving up our privacy.

  71. Big Brother is watching you. "1984" is coming true in this new century. Protect your privacy when you can.

  72. You know the one about being in a caldron of water that's being heated? Feels OK at first.
    This seems like a job for trump, assuming he's not in that industry's pocket also. (LOL)

  73. There is no apparent way for Samba to determine which household devices are linked to the person watching a particular TV. If Junior--or Dad--is watching a lot of Logo or porn, it seems that everybody from little Missy to Mom will start getting ads with groups of shirtless young men or young women showing a lot of leg and decolletage.

  74. No, it is smarter than that.

  75. I'll only worry when they have this installed in books.

  76. Do you buy books from Amazon? If so, you're not as safe as you might think.

  77. As long as you are not shopping your books on Amazon, you are in reasonable shape. Libraries now have sufficiently smart systems to recommend titles, but their ethics still prevent commercializing this and/or sharing it with others unless a Subpoena is properly presented.

  78. It's so simple... turn the thing off and leave it off. If we do, one day we might even regain control of our brains. Maybe.

  79. A smart tv is an oxymoron.

  80. Times: '... Samba TV’s “device map,” which matches TV content to mobile gadgets, according to a document on its website, ...'

    The "document" can be found by doing a web search for:

    "Whitepaper: The importance of a persistent and proprietary device map site:samba.tv"

    The web site appears to require users to give a name and email address before downloading, so I didn't proceed.

  81. Just a reminder folks - there's no need to connect your TV to the Internet. You probably have half a dozen other devices connected to it that can do everything your "smart" TV can but better and with more control over the software.

  82. Smart phones all have internet access and Siri hears key words. Don't tell me we are not being monitored, even the gps in our phone can locate where we are. It is just a matter of time before this is weaponized for political reasons, if not already.

  83. Disable Siri. Don’t use it. Problem solved.

  84. We should at least insist that we can review the collected information and have the option to purge and/or edit it on a regular basis.

    I really don't want a house sitter binge watching oprah modifying my household's marketing profile.

  85. "The Times is among the websites that allow advertisers to use data from Samba to track if people who see their ads visit their websites, but a Times spokeswoman, Eileen Murphy, said that the company did that “simply as a matter of convenience for our clients” and that it was not an endorsement of Samba TV’s technology."

    Ok. Thanks for the heads-up. But I get a kick out it that the Times waits until the 23rd paragraph in a 30 paragraph story to share this tidbit. They shove it into the bottom 'graphs of a long story about opaque and lengthy disclosure statements detailing data mining techniques.

    As good a news source as the Times can be, it can also be a parody of itself.

    If the Times uses Samba technology or provides access to it, it is endorsing it by the conduct, no matter what Times pr people say. If the Times comment came instead from a politician it didn't like or a flack for a Fortune 500 firm, the Times would run the quote and then start the next paragraph with "Still......" and then refute everything the guy said.

  86. OK, so we now know that to you the really hateful part of media is news reporting. Why is this not an unfamiliar message?

  87. I wish I watched more TV. Said nobody ever on their deathbed.

  88. The hilarious thing to me, personally, is that I NEVER do anything based on advertising and mute and click and block all of it. They're wasting their money on me!

  89. How about political adds??

  90. Marketing in America has become overwhelming. Anything you do, devices you have, software, applications, etc seems to track you and offer marketing companies the ability to "advertise" whether you like it or not. The underhanded way it is done is what irritates me. Personally, I don't trust many entities today- at all. I receive weekly in the mail an ad for mortgage refinancing but the clue for me is I don't even have a mortgage with the company with which they are identifying. There is no return address and I refuse to open it. . The dollars wasted for this company for incorrect data is laughable.

    Meanwhile I have been known to toss legitimate bills and information.I grow tired of the inability to stop being watched and constantly having to "opt out". It is annoying that I have no choice. And even so, these entities find the loopholes to continue to annoy consumers.

    Marketing in America is annoying and shameful. Consumers struggle to be protected.

  91. Why would you want a smart TV anyway? The way I see it, a TV is just an oversized computer monitor. The feature itself is a redundant waste of money even before the privacy issue. Connect a dumb TV to the internet and protect your privacy through whatever controls you deem adequate. Basically, I'm saying the internet of things is a scam in general. Don't do it. If you don't understand how a device networks itself in your home, you shouldn't have the device in your home.

  92. Hey, I was wondering why my network connected Roomba randomly stopped for no other reason than to let me know about the new sale going on at Macy's...

  93. I remember the good old days when only God could see everything I did.

  94. I breakfast and read the NYT online and do a few puzzles in the local rag. Ride my bicycle to play disc golf for a few hours. In the afternoon I read in the sun and walk in the woods. I don't buy anything or watch TV, but do monitor politics and the Mariners on my iPad. The NYT times and Weather.com repeatedly show me the same ad for pretty women in summer frocks, but I haven't bought one yet. I am not sure why I get this ad. GIGO.

  95. TVs and the companies who provide the services, (Comcast, Verizon, etc.), have been tracking and monitoring us through our electronic devices for many years now. They can hear you now.

  96. It is depressing to me that technology went from the goal of profiting by offering a product that makes our lives better to profiting by deceitfully finding ways to make money off of us in perpetuity with little to no added value for the consumer. Perhaps it is unfair to pin it on Reagan, but I feel like capitalism went straight for the amoral jugular and never looked back once Ronnie made government (i.e., we the people) the problem.

  97. How do you disable this once it has been enabled?

  98. One of the saddest statistics about the U.S. is how few watch TV without a recorder. So they must actually be sitting through those commercials. Disgusting.

  99. No, and again no. First of all, targeted ads are incredibly creepy. Nobody enjoys being spied upon.

    Second, if I ever click on any ads on my computer or phone, it is only by mistake. Advertisement is one of the worst annoyances ever invented. Nobody will ever get any business from me through an ad. I have trained myself to ignore them as much as possible, and I will go out of my way to boycott advertisers that go to obnoxious lengths to hawk their products. And that includes the NY Times.

  100. I threw out the TV because I was addicted to it, staying up all night watching garbage. I got off Facebook, but it was too late: these were the gateway drugs to my internet habit, in the convenient iPhone dosage.
    The seductive hold that the screens have on all of us is not easy to break, which the people who want our money and votes know how to exploit. We willingly participate in the two-minutes-hate because it feels so good, so much better than terrifyingly real life.
    What’s a little monitoring when you can watch the video of those kids in the cave for the 20th time, while walking on Prince Street?
    Ugh, I feel so bad for them. Did you see how cute they are? Plus, lemme send you this meme of pugs wearing hats; it’s hysterical.

  101. In an otherwise thorough story, two things are missing: a more complete listing of which TVs have this "feature" (other than as a link to Samba self-promoting site), and if someone has enabled Samba without understanding what it REALLY does, how does that person disable it?

  102. I was a victim of Samba TV when I bought my new SONY HDR, I was furious to see this app pop up in the middle of my viewing experience. It is a no way out situation, users are basically forced to enable the big brother 1984 features. Samba states on the pop up that one can easily disable the feature. NOT TRUE. The Samba TV pop up will come back in a loop later. Samba TV is basically a Android app on the SONY HDR models. Simply putting disable off in your TV setting mode will not do the trick. One must KILL of FORCE KILL the app repeatedly within the Android settings to get rid of this monster. That was my experience. That is how I finally got rid of the horrors of Samba TV. Samba also adds more bandwidth and resource depletion to your TV system. Samba is a tough pest to rid of it and the instructions to rid of it are incorrect. Only my background as a software engineer helped me; if one is not technical good luck. Never enable SAMBA, you will never rid of it. I snuffed it out. basically I avoid the perils of Smart TV altogether and use Chromecast and now a happy TV camper. Thank you NY Times for publishing this article. the TV manufactures like Sony do their best to deceive and trick you into Samba land. Shame on Sony and the rest of the TV Land.

  103. The Samba folks may think their disclaimers are providing information about what the service does in "the simplest language" but to me, special offers means I am the main beneficiary, If they used the screen searching to find that I am watching lots of shows filmed in Australia and they provide me with offers of low, low, flights to OZ, I'd probably be delighted. But instead they are using the screen searches to provide big advertisers info like, lots of people are watching tv shows that feature Minute Maid orange juice, and so the big advertisers go off and in a completely different place than my tv make ads that say "hey viewers, did you know Minute Maid orange juice is drank on all three of these shows that you probably watch?" The danger of Big Brother pales by comparison.

  104. OK. So, clarify that.

    Getting discounted fares to Australia is good.
    Getting orange juice ads is bad.

    What if I watch lots of Ozzie shows, don't have the money to go there, but do enjoy OJ?

    How is this different.

    Or, consider this: what if Coca Cola, NOT reading your screen serves you a Minute Maid spot? Is that better?

  105. So I am home alone getting a quick hit of porn whilst the wife is at Wholepaycheck Foods using her smart phone to compare Hass and Fuerte when she is surprised when an ad for a very friendly life-size inflatable doll pops onto her screen. Meanwhile I am hit with the promise of a bikini-ready body within 5 days, and all thanks to Samba TV. Hmm, looks like it's time to upgrade my ad blocker.

  106. All the GOP has to do is get data on who is watching CNN and who watches Fox and Friends and you have your targets for the next election. Trump is not against Russian meddling cause it is exactly that kind of meddling that he himself used in the last election. What is ironic about this is that they may not have colluded.

  107. You know what's ironic-er? That you're still referring to them as a Grand Old Party.

    Because that's what those letters mean.

    Don't accept their framing. Don't catapult their propaganda. Watch. Your. Language.

  108. Big Brother has manifested itself just not as Orwell had envisioned it. We have smart TV's, smart phones, CCTV, the internet and social media all invading our lives and our privacy.

  109. Any device that monitors and tracks our habits and actions, regardless of what it is, should be monitored and regulated by the same gov't agency, whether its my ISP, my TV, or my smart thermostat or smart fridge. B/c if all this data is accessible or for sale, its use is not limited to that particular device or device maker.

  110. We have a Vizio smart TV. After reading the terms and conditions we chose not to connect it to the internet.

  111. People laughed when I put up a new rooftop TV antenna after the DTV transition. They don't laugh so much anymore.

  112. "... I put up a new rooftop TV antenna after the DTV transition."

    Don't get too confident. The Samba TV software uses image recognition, so it can spy on your over-the-air TV viewing too. See the photo at the top of the article.

    What you should really be worrying about is whether your TV supports wireless (wifi) and Bluetooth.

  113. "We have millions of viewers who have explicitly opted into our service and have continued to use it for years. So it is a fair argument to make that far more consumers are satisfied with Samba than surprised by it."
    Or you have millions of viewers that opted in, but do not know how to opt out, or that opted in but are now just ignoring it.

  114. In the film Minority Report (2002), mandatory eye scans in public places would produce customized holograms to aggressively hound consumers. It's clear we're not far from that.

  115. Great story and great research into a potentially dangerous tool. Since, as Ms. Maheshwari reports, the Samba TV app clusters clients into geographic clusters, the data could also be used for redistricting purposes, and even gerrymandering. Not good.

  116. "Privacy" lasted a short time, a couple of centuries from the village, where most people lived and everyone knew everyone else's business, to the digital age. Urban life promised and delivered privacy and anonymity. So did "the frontier" part of the American dream where one could pick up stakes and start over. The panoptical society as made both those options invalid. Persons are monitored and recorded from the footprint at birth to the certificate at death. And as many note in their comments, we asked for big brother.

  117. These analogies are not apropos. In the past there were no Russians snooping on what the villagers were doing & starting rumors to destroy the social fabric.

    You're naive if you have confidence that the various companies collecting & sharing won't be hacked or even paid off by others with nefarious intent.

  118. Anybody knows why Xfinity with its new voice activated devices are not shown in the list

    Looks to be paid for by them !

  119. Although it should be unnecessary someone could make millions selling a software program that would insert a virus in these programs to make them inoperable on our individual devices. Hackers take note. And if commercial enterprises have faith that these systems work to enable them to manipulate our choices there is a fine line between their use and the states. If our current president thinks nothing of banning immigrants from the "due process" rules of law granted them by the constitution, what is to stop him from his suspending "due process" from our rights to privacy. The only thing that makes Orwell's 1984 incorrect is that he got the date wrong.

  120. "... a software program that would insert a virus in these programs to make them inoperable on our individual devices. Hackers take note."

    That's totally unnecessary. As the article says, users can opt out of using Samba TV when they set up the TV. Users should also be able to disable wireless (wifi) on the TV.

    For technically inclined readers:

    Some smart TVs use Android, so it may be possible to disable or remove the Samba TV app. Do a web search for "android smart tv remove samba".

  121. I think it is totally beautiful.

    At the same time, I'm almost 99% sure that the ad industry will not use this technology to finally develop a theory of how advertising really works, of the importance of the creative vs. the medium and of the importance (or not) of context.

    Finally, for 99% of viewers, how will they know? It isn't as if someone is going to ask "hey what spot did you see last night during NCIS?" and realize that they are served different spots.

    If the ads are served correctly (and why wouldn't they be?) viewers will see more relevant and useful ads.

  122. I will not agree to having the advertising industry looking over my shoulder 24 hours a day so that they can try to determine more effective ways to manipulate me.

    If you are fine with that then click "Submit" below.

  123. Hm...I"m not "old fashioned", I am actually ahead of the curve on protecting my privacy with my non-smart, antenna based TV.

  124. If the agreement was worded differently, such as, "you agree to allow us to track all of your viewing data and target you for advertising", then you very likely would not "have millions of viewers who have explicitly opted into our service".

    Uninformed people make uninformed choices.

  125. "Uninformed people make uninformed choices."

    And busloads of lawyers, making 10,000-word user agreements are very, very good at obfuscation.

    Speaking of being "informed."

  126. Agreed. Witness who is sitting in the White House.

  127. what these "smart cuning technocrats" are doing is spying on me while I am on a private road (so I thought) without my permission. I hope that these private road owner like Verizon and At&T and Comcast stop these spyglasses from looking at what I am watchig or talking to or emailing to. And Federal Government (I don't thing Pai will do it; he is a capitalist's paid cop) should make it criminal to collect any data on anyone withot their permission. This is same as tracking someone without consent for their persona benefit. Send them to jail with no computer or internet or TV; nothing.

  128. If Verizon and AT&T did in fact stop this from happening, it would not be out of any sense of goodwill or desire to protect the customer. It would be because there's a competing service that they have the ability to disable by controlling the last mile.

    Telecoms are not your friends. They might have been friendlier at some point in time when they were regulated. But today, the telecoms are not regulated.

  129. The big companies telecoms/cable giants are in on it. Don't be fooled to thinking they aren't.

  130. We are now officially into the age of Big Brother is Watching.

  131. I want to know where and how all this information is being used. If I shop for underpants, I see underpants ads for the next six months, everywhere I browse, even though the same program knows I already bought the underpants! All this new information being captured, but it's the same dopey executives making decisions.

  132. Privacy is dead in the Digital Age. Those who still rail about it are advocating locking the barn after the horse has been stolen. Good luck with that.

  133. So we should just lie back and try to enjoy it?

  134. That's too fatalistic. A lot can be done still. See Europe's recent implementation of GDPR privacy laws.

  135. Why can't a TV just be a TV? Just as, why can't ads just be ads? The moment we find out it's a smart this or that is the moment we say no thanks.

  136. Librarians have a code that forbids the collection of reading habits of their patrons without legal authority. Even then, the library association may challenge the warrant.

    Why shouldn't we have the same ethical standards for all our activities?

    Does Safeway sell my buying habits to marketers? Does clicking accidentally on the Bombas ad in the Times mean every day for a week, I get another ad for socks?

    We need a consumer's bill of rights. No data collection without affirmative permission.

  137. Actually most grocery stores have for at least a decade, tracked your purchases with a 'rewards card' for milk, for points, or even just using your credit card to pay for items.

    But the fact that most don't know this is happening shows the degree of erosion of our privacy into our shopping habits, even food products.

  138. Do you use the Safeway, or any other chain's, customer loyalty card or opt into that when you are checking out to get any in-store bargains? Then, yes, the store/chain is collecting, and probably selling, your data. But you knew that, right?

  139. "Does Safeway sell my buying habits to marketers?"

    If it has a buyer's club .. yeah, probably. Which is why many do not join such clubs.

    Ditto, iPhone and Android apps from stores. Might be excessive, but I avoid them like the plague.

    Remember: the smartphone is a GPS device. You don't want to be tracked? Turn it off.

    Now looking at the old flip-phones, still for sale ..

  140. I once worked at a TV analytics company that uses your cable box the same way that sambla users smart TV.

    once you're on the inside, the world of data looks terrifying.

  141. Yes your cable box and internet companies are also doing the same thing. It's not just smart TV's. The genie is truly out of the bottle when it comes to TV viewing and privacy.

  142. It would be helpful to know how to check your smart tv to find out if Samba is activated and how to remove it.

  143. The Times website also uses Samba? How do we opt out of that?

  144. I sent the NYT Editor a strong email against their use of Samba and will unsubscribed to their service. If paying for a subscription is not enough for them, they can go fish.

  145. It is refreshing to see how many commenters have trained themselves to not see ads, and never click. Myself included. I refuse to watch real-time TV, or use the Twitter App w/ “promoted tweets” and automatically playing video. Never have been on fb. If only everyone behaved this way, ads would go away. Instead, there is a ‘sucker born every minute “.

  146. Huh. Sarcasm or sanctimony? I honestly can't tell with this one.

  147. Watching TV is so ... 20th century.

    I have never clicked on an ad, except by mistake. I've never bought anything I've seen advertised. Seeing an ad, if anything, means that the product's quality is not sufficient for it to be promoted by the word of mouth.

  148. " I've never bought anything I've seen advertised."

    You have never purchased a car? Soda? Alcohol? Fast food? Because I guarantee you that you have seen all of those products advertised in some manner.

    We like to delude ourselves into thinking that advertising does not work. That we cannot be manipulated.

    It does and we can.

  149. "I've never bought anything I've seen advertised."

    This isn't quite what you mean, but every time you look at a product box in a store, you are looking at advertising.

  150. Just say no, consistently and systematically. Deny every request and "opt-in" that implies collection of data. Invoke every privacy option, tracker and ad blocking, cookie collection. Ignore bleating pleas about how free content will vanish if advertising is stymied. Just. Say. No.

  151. I'm not sure I see the value in the quid pro quo offered by Samba. Do those who opt in really get recommendations and offers? Seems too speculative for one to give up their privacy.
    What drives so many to opt in? Perhaps they think their new TV will work better with Samba or their excitement in setting up their new TV clouds their judgment.

  152. People really WANT this stuff? Why?

    I have just 1 connected device in my home, my desktop computer. And when I'm done using it I turn it off at the plug strip. That's enough for me.

  153. Do you have a cable box or internet router? These are both always on internet connected devices that can monitor your activity. How about a smart phone or a tablet?

  154. We rail against the NSA and big government yet literally allow corporate America into our bedrooms via various digital screens.

    Spare me the blather about "it's different." Giving away your privacy to a corporation is just a subpoena away (if even that) from giving it to the government.

    I know the privacy horse has long left the barn but if anything demands a grass roots effort to change things this is it.

  155. We also need to worry that the Russians, Chinese, etc. could hack into corporations like Samba TV & use the data to improve their cyberwarfare operations.

  156. The more people keep being given what they already consume - based on software algorithms and/or hardware "capabilities", the more "partisan" and narrow-minded in many ways people will become. Free choice - whether on TV, on the web, or wherever else, is supposed to be exactly that - "free choice" - not "directed free choice based on what some math equation decides you should consume next. Pretty sad, IMO, that so many people think this is okay.

  157. What a great story. The only thing that's missing is information on how dysfunctional Samba TV is as a company. It is an incredibly hostile environment. I worked there for a short bit, and had to run away right away.

  158. "It is an incredibly hostile environment."

    That's not too informative. Please give more details.

  159. Evil is as evil does.

  160. Imagine that someone who does not live in or have a particular reason for being in a community, parks a vehicle to the side of a street for weeks, apparently monitoring the activities of residents. People would likely take notice, and request that civil authorities take action. Not so when thoughtlessly pressing buttons while in a hurry to set up the new TV; the stranger is invited into the home and given a blank check. Interesting.

  161. It's time the US follows Europe's lead on implementing stricter privacy laws. Recent implementations of the "GDPR" are starting to have a real impact!

  162. While this particular version may seem ominous - the direct-marketing concept is really nothing new --

    When you go to the supermarket you buy two packages of frozen waffles - and at the checkout, they scan your supermarket courtesy card for any sales or discounts -

    The next time you go to the supermarket, you buy something else - but this time, when your courtesy card is scanned - on the back of your receipt is a coupon towards your next purchase of waffle syrup -

    You go to CVS to buy shampoo, Q-Tips and a bottle of vitamins - and receive 10% off the shampoo after scanning your courtesy card at the checkout -

    The next time you check out at CVS - your receipt includes a "Buy One, Get One 50% Off" coupon for CVS brand vitamins --

    You make a contribution towards an animal rescue foundation - and soon your mailbox is flooded with other heart-tugging pleas from organizations all with "good causes" --

    There are many people out there who firmly believe they are too smart and perceptive to "fall for" advertising and insist they can see right through it --

    Right now - at this very minute - there is a group of very clever, young, brilliant and very high-paid ad executives sitting around a table in an office somewhere having a meeting - and the person leading that meeting opens by saying --

    "So - we need to find a way to hook into those people out there who firmly believe they are too smart and perceptive to fall for advertising and insist they can see right through it." ...

  163. I sometimes can only shake my head in wonder at the vast number of people who will trade away all their personal information in exchange for a minor benefit. If the government were vacuuming up all this information, I'm sure they would be howling about a vast deep-state conspiracy.

  164. If you want to believe the government is not vacuuming up all of this information, please feel to do so. I suspect that only the Government of Antarctica is not in the vacuum business.

  165. Are you saying you are above that? Do you have a gmail, msn, or yahoo email account? If so, they all read your email; you gave them that right in exchange for "free" email. Do you use cloud storage for you phone or computer? Depending on which it is, they also scan what you upload to add to their knowledge of you. You gave them that right when you signed up for it. Facebook we already know about.

    Which brings us to the NYT, a service you obviously use. Have you read their privacy policy? They are pretty clear that they gather personal information from all users and some of that is shared with 3rd parties. They may be reading all your comments you make like this one, who knows. In any event, you have given up your right to privacy when you started using the NYT services.

    My point is the collection of personal information is insidious and widespread. Most people just blithely click through and accept the ToS when they sign up, and are largely unaware of what they have agreed to.

  166. But isn't the US government already collecting all this "incidentally" as part of their global cyberspying efforts to, uh, detect terrorists? The moment this information is transmitted via the internet and goes through a major hub the NSA is already looking at it. The question is how much do they retain and review for laughs later? And how much will be used against us if / when a less friendly regime takes over all three branches of government. Oh wait has that already happened?

  167. Isn’t the simple means to not connect the internet to the TV? I use the TV as a monitor, sending it hdmi signals from AppleTV and OPPO.

  168. If you stream, some company is collecting the data.

  169. Thing is you don’t have to stream with an AppleTV. You can just buy what you want to watch. Not sure if Amazon still sells movies and tv shows.

  170. Well, about the only good thing is that it's opt-in rather than opt-out!

    However, the companies should be REQUIRED to send customers quarterly statements listing what information they've vacuumed up, who they've given it to or how they used it to get advertising dollars--that is, which companies, details on just what specific information is associated with your TV or browser, etc.

    And, then, after 6 months, there should be another REQUIRED opt-in -- with a "Have you received and reviewed the information we sent you?" -- to ensure that consumers are truly informed.

    Now, on a lighter note, I had to laugh at one poorly written sentence:

    "and which party’s presidential debate they watched"

    Hmm, since when does a party hold a "presidential debate"? OK, let's say they meant the series of nominating debates, but that's DEBATES, plural.

  171. If Samba really was "upfront" about what it wanted, its opt-in screen would state something like this: "If you agree, we will monitor everything you watch, show ads targeting you based on what you watch, and sell your information to other companies that will show you ads and sell your information again, and again, and again."

    But no. Samba talks only about "special offers." I think most people these days are savvy enough to know that "special offers" on computers and phones actually mean spam and ads and selling your personal information, but they don't expect it from their TVs. It's creepy on a 55" screen.

  172. Why is it that the main effect of loss of privacy is more advertisements when escaping advertising has been the driving force in the creation of the various viewing options? Cable, HBO, NetFlix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and the very internet itself were an effort to stream line information and entertainment and to avoid ads.

    I have been running from radio ads, TV ads, magazine ads from the usual suspects for years. Now I have to run from ads on Google, eBay, Amazon and even YouTube which give me local ads targeted to me based on my IP.

    I have my phone number unlisted and have to constantly register it on 'do not call' lists to avoid thousands of marketing calls (ads) a year.

    The specialized forums I joined online have scrolling and flashing ads that slow my system down as it processes auto-running videos and gifs.

    Even when I visit a retail site there are constant ads running in the margins.

    Make no mistake: Those ads are NOT for the viewers. We don't want them. They just clutter and slow our systems.

  173. On every Smart TV I have ever used, you have the ability to DISABLE the wifi antenna.

    If disabling is not possible on your TV, you can give it a bogus network address. Its no different than putting a fake name or email on a survey.

    If you are concerned about privacy, certainly do not plug it in with a network cable.

    You can also put electrical tape over the camera, should your TV have one.

  174. But disabling wifi in a smart TV turns it into a monitor, so what's the point then of a smart TV?

    It is not difficult to disable Samba.tv, which stops the spying (at least by Samba), but still allows you to use apps like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, etc.

    If you are *really* concerned about privacy, don't use the Internet at all. It is almost impossible to stop all monitoring, tracking, cookies, etc. and get anything practical done in this day and age.

  175. If you use a cable or satellite provider you're sunk; there's no way to stop the info going to them. The only solution is to use only over-the-air broadcast.

  176. How long before this "feature" is no longer optional but mandatory? Soon, TVs will come with the same annoying non-removable anti-privacy bloatware we already have on phones and computers.

  177. The Traitorous Sexual Assaulters (TSA) are working on that. Black-tape the camera, and you'll get to enjoy a "complimentary" pat-down and nether-grope right at home.

    Resist those and get a FREE criminal record! Terrorism charge, national news smear campaign, and forced "confession" included.

    Who said all that advertising doesn't bring us benefits? :)

  178. What a wonderfully wry photograph of Mr. Kitchen on the Thames, surrounded by the incidentally surveilled.

  179. I went to a business school. Back then 15 years ago we used to study Marketing. I guess there is no need for marketing classes anymore. For, all one has to do now is "spy" on people through Facebook, SmartTV, internet browsers, etc...

    I have a proposal for all these companies.: built a chip and I'll insert it into my body and we share the revenues 50/50, at least I'll be making some money on you "spying" on me.

  180. Pretty soon, the chip will just be inserted at birth.

  181. Disable/break the "smart TV" functionality on your set and stick with the more controllable and generally faster interface of a connected streaming box ie, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, etc. People should never buy a set based on it's smart features anyway, as you have much less flexibility and fewer options than with said streamers.

  182. Nope nope nope nope NOPE.

    Creep TVs are bad, but ditching them for a megacreepy walled-garden fragmented-"content" streamer is like escaping the rainstorm so you can shoot a fire hose at your head—and not even be allowed to keep the water!

  183. You are wrong sir.
    Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, etc. are also gathering your data, parsing it and monetizing it.

  184. I can't help but wonder how marketing and advertising people came to the conclusion that we yearn for more ads, "relevant" and not. This insatiable need to grab at unsuspecting consumers wherever we may lurk is an addiction of the industry's own making: if they hadn't already oversaturated every conceivable platform with "buy, buy, buy," they wouldn't need to desperately invent new ways to slice and dice access to potential customers. One of these days, we're all going to decide that incessant advertising that follows you everywhere isn't worth the increasingly small pleasures from commercial entertainment. As for the Internet, browsing without a good Ad Blocker is already unimaginably painful ...

  185. The whole phenomenon of "Big Data" is part and parcel of the Smart TV revolution. "Big Data" for some companies, is merely a way and excuse to parse through data in order to essentially violate consumer privacy. We consumers are nothing to these big companies. Merely data points to be dissected and sold to the highest bidder like cattle at an auction.

  186. We, the people are no longer Citizens in this unbridled-Capitalism America -- we're consumers, commodities and/or canon fodder.

    Oh, and if they figure you're gonna vote for the 'wrong' party, they have ways of preventing that too.

    Capitalism has (legally) bought 'our' democracy, lock, stock, and barrel.

  187. I've been suspecting that my cable company on Long Island was behind the sudden tidal wave of ads about diabetes products, after I was diagnosed with the disease a couple of months ago and done online research on it. I cannot turn on a TV, on any channel, for more than a few minutes without an ad for a diabetes-related product popping up.

  188. “You appear to opt into a discovery-recommendation service, but what you’re really opting into is pervasive monitoring on your TV.”

    This is valuable reporting. Most of us who opt-in have no idea what we are agreeing to do.

    They don't tell us. In many cases they could not tell us without a lengthy article we wouldn't read anyway, like the privacy stuff we "agree to."

    Even if they could tell us, that would be another example of "self regulation" and we know that is code for "go away and leave us to exploit our customers."

    Since we can't expect this sort of thing from Consumer Reports or equivalent either, we have got to rely on reporters to dig it out. So, thanks.

  189. "A screen urges them to enable a service called Samba Interactive TV, saying it recommends shows and provides special offers “by cleverly recognizing onscreen content.” But the screen, which contains the enable button, does not detail how much information Samba TV collects to make those recommendations."

    This is called fraud. It's also an unauthorized invasion of privacy. Companies which include this technology in their products should have their marketing officers prosecuted and sent to jail.

    That's what it will take to make corporate America understand that our private lives are not their commercial playgrounds. Try this same conduct in France or Germany and see how far you get.

  190. Smart TV: the ultimate oxymoron...

  191. People give away all their information already. "Free" useless apps on their devices, often sending the person's contact list off to a server in the ether. Parents give their kids toys that send their child's voice off into the ether - before buying your kid ANYTHING with an internet connection search on the time the parents heard their child having a conversation with the stranger who randomly hacked into the kid's doll.

    Alexa, Siri, please record my every whim! Why should people be surprised the TVs are getting into it. Just wait until beds and bathroom mirrors suddenly get internet connectivity to support pointless new privacy-invading features. People will click through a 17,000-word EULA, accept default settings - including password "password" of course - and never give it another thought.

    Europeans fight this. Why don't we here?

  192. This article demonstrates that Samba and its like are not offering a service; they are offering a virus. We need real government regulation of business - all of them - and we need it yesterday! We are being treated like cows to be milked by the parasites of advertising. I am so sick of it I don't even own a tv. Now, to get rid of the internet.

  193. I highly recommend reading Jerome Lanier's book "Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts" on the subject matter. A real eye opener!

  194. All users of "smart" devices should:

    * minimize their use as much as possible (particularly smartphones as they track all manner of personal data and telemetry info)

    * disable and/or remove all camera/microphone capability and turn off "smart web"- type features

    * unplug powered devices from the wall when possible, including routers

    If end users find it impactical or burdensome to attempt these things, then they should aggressively utilize the screen-reading and viewer tracking features to "game" their datasets- don't watch corporate "news" programs, click away immediately from rightwing nonsense, give 'thumbs down' to reactionary programming, etc.

    The irony of all this mass data collection is that it won't change the outcome for our self-appointed rulers: diminishing returns and collapse in spite of attempts to digitally enslave the population at large and attain their compliance.

  195. I don’t even dare look at my TV anymore, let alone make eye contact with it. This new digital world in making me autistic too. It may be a welcome relief when I think about it.

  196. I do not want a smart TV - or a smart home - or a smart car. But little by little the things that allow constant monitoring or our every habit will be built into objects we use without thought - and without our permissions.

  197. My state-of-the-art Sony Trinitron still provides all the "smarts" required from a television.

  198. Ever time my Amazon Echo lights up or disgorges a chime without any prompting, I wonder what information Alexa is sweeping up from my household.

  199. It's recording any conversation in your home.
    It's hat simple.

  200. In Corporate America, television watches you! It's enough to make one turn the thing off and start reading again... nahh, just kidding.

  201. Wait a second? You are saying that TV, or great content altogether, isn't free?

  202. I'd rather pay with my money than with my soul.

  203. I am so happy I cut the cord two years ago. I don't miss television.