If you own a Vizio television, you may want to disconnect it from the internet or even throw it out. A new post from the FTC describes a data collection program the company employed, starting in 2014 (but TVs from as far back as 2010 can be affected), and that information was then sold to third parties. The company is no longer employing that program—but has to pay $3.7 million in fines; $1.5 million goes to the FTC and $2.2 million to the state 0f New Jersey.
The creepy program worked like this: Internet-connected TVs recorded the pixels that every television was playing and then matched the pieced-together pictures with a database of video programming. This information was given to third parties. The third parties also got access to users’ IP addresses to gather personal information including age, household size, marital status, income, etc. (Vizio prohibited household names from being identified). All this data made it possible for marketers and companies to track and target Vizio customers. According to the FTC, the company was collecting over 100 billion data points every day.