Stories

Smart TVs are watching us now

A woman walking by Smart TVs
A woman walking by Panasonic Smart TVs. Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images

"How Smart TVs in Millions of U.S. Homes Track More Than What’s on Tonight," by N.Y. Times' Sapna Maheshwari: "[D]ata companies have harnessed new technology to immediately identify what people are watching on internet-connected TVs, then using that information to send targeted advertisements to other devices in their homes."

Why it matters: "Samba TV[, one of those data companies,] 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[s] they watched."

  • "Samba TV has struck deals with roughly a dozen TV brands — including Sony, Sharp, TCL and Philips — to place its software on certain sets."
  • "When people set up their TVs, 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."
  • "Samba TV ... said at the end of 2016 that more than 90 percent of people opted in."
  • "Once enabled, Samba TV can track nearly everything that appears on the TV on a second-by-second basis, essentially reading pixels to identify network shows and ads, as well as programs on Netflix and HBO and even video games played on the TV."