Gadgets, Technology

Your Smart TV may indeed be watching you – be careful

TV has come a long way and just like any other machine, has evolved a lot in the era of internet. We have leaped big into the age where you verbally command your TV to do what you want from the comfort of your couch. Too lazy to even reach for your remote.

This technological revolution will continue with every little innovation as competition stiffens among companies, and for them to be relevant to you they might just be watching and listening to your every word and movement. Well, you may know that, but it’s even important now that the FBI confirms it and even goes ahead to issue a precautionary advice.

How companies use Smart TV to track users

The capability of the Smart TV could only be imagined just a few years back. These gadgets today usually have the following components:

  • Camera
  • Microphone
  • Apps (some of which are inbuilt while others are downloadable via the internet)

What do these components do?

The Smart TV camera can be used when chatting, but it turns out that companies also use them for facial recognition. They basically watch you or whoever is streaming particular programmes at specific times.

They collect such data so that next time the user starts streaming, the apps can recognize your face and suggest which programmes to watch and what targeted adverts to show depending on your habits.

Voice recognition is a growing trend in the tech world, and the microphone through which you issue commands to your TV is the main component for collecting data about you.

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In usual circumstances, you can use the microphone to command change of channels, volume decrease or increase, and whatever you want. But then did you know as long as the microphone is on a third party could be listening to all your conversations? Yeah, right. Now you do.

The FBI also says that apart from manufacturers and app developers stalking you, hackers may find a way into your home.

“A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router. ~ FBI

What can they do when they succeed?

They can change channels at their pleasure to your chagrin, play with the volume, and show your children inappropriate videos.

“In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.”

Techcrunch early this year reported about the hijacking of the Chromecast streaming devices.

How to keep your Smart TV from being hacked

Read your TVs manual to understand its features and capabilities and how to control them. This is the advice the FBI is giving:

  • Know exactly what features your TV has and how to control those features. Do a basic Internet search with your model number and the words “microphone,” “camera,” and “privacy.”
  • Don’t depend on the default security settings. Change passwords if you can – and know how to turn off the microphones, cameras, and collection of personal information if possible. If you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service.
  • If you can’t turn off a camera but want to, a simple piece of black tape over the camera eye is a back-to-basics option.
  • Check the manufacturer’s ability to update your device with security patches. Can they do this? Have they done it in the past?
  • Check the privacy policy for the TV manufacturer and the streaming services you use. Confirm what data they collect, how they store that data, and what they do with it.