VIZIO, Inc., one of the world’s biggest manufacturers and sellers of internet-connected smart televisions, has recently agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges imposed by the US Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General, which alleged that it installed a software intended to collect viewing data, on 11 million of its smart TVs, without informing consumers or seeking their consent.
According to the agencies’ complaint, commencing in February 2014, VIZIO manufactured VIZIO smart TVs which capture second-by-second information about video displayed on the smart TV, such as video from consumer cable, broadband, set-top box, DVD, over-the-air broadcasts, and streaming devices.
The agencies also claimed that VIZIO facilitated appending specific demographic information to the viewing data, including sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value. According to the agencies’ complaint, VIZIO sold the information to third-parties, who used it for various purposes, including targeting advertising to consumers across a variety of devices.
Additionally, the agencies alleged that VIZIO touted its “Smart Interactivity” feature, which enables program offers and suggestions, but failed to inform consumers that the settings also enabled the collection of consumers’ viewing data. VIZIO’s data tracking – which occurred without obtaining the viewers’ informed consent – was unfair and deceptive, and in violation of the FTC Act and New Jersey consumer protection laws.
The stipulated federal court order requires VIZIO to prominently reveal and obtain affirmative express consent for its data collection and sharing practices, as well as forbids misrepresentations regarding the privacy, security, or confidentiality of consumer information obtained by it. The order also requires VIZIO to delete data collected before 1 March 2016, and to implement a comprehensive data privacy program and biennial assessments for that program.