The California-based TV manufacturer agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle the charges and disclose when and how it collects user information. Since February 2014, software installed on the televisions allowed Vizio to continuously collect customer’s viewing history through software called “ACR,” or automated content recognition. This software captures a selection of pixels displayed on Vizio smart TV screens and sends that data to the company’s servers, where those pixels are compared to a database of different TV shows, movies, and commercials. ACR can also collect information like your Wi-Fi signal strength, nearby Wi-Fi access points, and IP addresses.
The complaint alleges that over 100 billion data points per day (information like what content you’re watching and how long you’re watching it) from more than 10 million Vizio televisions have been collected, and the company planned to store this data on their servers indefinitely. A stipulated federal court order requires that Vizio delete all data collected before March 1, 2016. An anonymized version of the data omitting customers’ name or contact information was sold to third parties for advertising and audience measurement purposes.
FTC’s complaint said Vizio did not make it clear to customers that they intended to collect their TV viewing history, and the collection was turned on by default, which did not give customers a chance to opt out. A key part of the complaint is that Vizio promised customers recommendations based on the data collected, but never provided them to owners of older Vizio TVs
If you own a Vizio TV, you can disable data collection by going to your TV’s Menu > Settings > Smart Interactivity, or any option with Automated Content Recognition, and turning it off.