The New York Times yesterday addressed the downside of smart TVs – all the behaviour tracking that goes on, often without users really being aware of it.
Even if your TV doesn’t have anything as vile as display ads in its menus, it might be tracking what you watch and using that data to target ads to you on other devices.
“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. Samba TV 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 they watched.
“The big draw for advertisers — which have included Citi and JetBlue in the past, and now Expedia — is that Samba TV can also identify other devices in the home that share the TV’s internet connection.”
In the case of Samba’s software, users can opt-in or out when they set up their TV. Whether they understand enough about the product to make the right choice is another question. This is a feature entirely designed for the benefit of TV manufacturers (who get a nice source of extra income in a slim-margin business) and advertisers. Consumers get nothing from it.
In a world where our gadgets keep getting smarter, TVs are one device that should stay dumb. All a TV needs to do is be really good at showing moving pictures.
It’s like ISPs – most of the ‘value add’ services they offer aren’t really necessary. They’re there as a differentiator in a competitive business, and because the ISPs don’t think they make enough money from their core offering. The best ISPs should focus on offering a great internet connection, and nothing else.
My golden rule when it comes to TVs is this: never connect your TV to the internet. Ignore the ‘smart’ features. Just plug in a Chromecast or similar device and stream video from the internet that way.