Those who have watched an LG Smart TV were probably unaware at the time that the television set may have been capable of collecting information on their viewing habits, even though the users involved never authorized the world’s second-largest television manufacturer to do this.
LG has publicly admitted to its use of the data-gathering feature on its Smart TVs and issued an apology – but only after it was first exposed by a tech-savvy blogger.
The blogger, writing on DoctorBeet’s Blog (which only has the LG story on it, dated Nov. 18), noted that “LG [through use of its Smart TVs] analyses users favorite programs, online behavior, search keywords and other information to offer relevant ads to target audiences. For example, LG Smart can feature sharp suits to men or alluring cosmetics and fragrances to women.”
LG said its Smart TVs also transmit the names of files that users store on USB flash drives, which are plugged into these “smart” television sets. Many viewers tend to include their own names or the names of their children or other loved ones as part of a USB flash drive’s filename, which deepens the sense of invasion of privacy some may be experiencing because of LG. Responding to this, LG said that “no personal data was ever collected or retained.”
However, some see this as one of the key problems with what LG has done. LG, critics say, is not only taking information from viewers without their permission; the company also is sending this data over the Internet in plaintext format – meaning in a format that can be easily intercepted, raising issues of identity theft, for example.
LG promised to issue a software upgrade so consumers truly can choose the option of turning the data-gathering feature off. It also promised to remove the part of the data-gathering feature that collects the names of files and folders on viewers’ personal USB drives.
LG to date has not specified which Smart TV models are equipped with this feature.
How Does LG Smart TV’s ‘Spy’ Feature Work?
The LG Smart TVs in question include a feature that is capable of both gathering information on what users are watching and sending it back to LG; the company said that this was to enable it to develop customized recommendations for other content that the viewers may prefer based on the collected data about their viewing habits. The company also noted that the data-gathering also enabled the company to deliver better advertising – meaning advertising that is “more relevant” to the particular viewer.
Specific viewing data collected by the LG Smart TVs includes viewing duration, real-time tracking of selected channel, and the names of all files stored on connected USB drives and network shares. This information was “collected as part of the Smart TV platform to deliver more relevant advertisements and to offer recommendations to viewers based on what other LG Smart TV owners are watching,” said a statement the company emailed to a security researcher.
South-Korea-based LG appears to give viewers an option capable of turning off the feature that collects and relays the information about viewers, but the company verified this feature was unable to stop the televisions from collecting the data sent back to the company.
Legal Help for LG’s Smart TV Consumers
If you have purchased an LG Smart TV you may have valuable legal rights. To find out more about joining an LG Smart TV class action lawsuit, please fill out the form at the right for a free case evaluation by a qualified product liability attorney or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).