Vizio Smart TV owners who haven’t heard that the internet-connected televisions had been spying on them may find out about it directly from their Smart TV itself, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The secret “feature” was exposed in November 2015, when journalistic watchdog ProPublica revealed that Vizio TVs track viewing habits and share them with advertisers.
Vizio’s technology works by analyzing snippets of the shows you’re watching, whether on traditional television or streaming Internet services such as Netflix. Vizio determines the date, time, channel of programs — as well as whether you watched them live or recorded. The viewing patterns are then connected your IP address – the Internet address that can be used to identify every device in a home, from your TV to a phone. –Propublica
Following the report, several class action lawsuits ensued which were consolidated. The company argued in court that it was innocent and only recorded customers anonymously, however a California Federal Judge disagreed, once in March and once in July, in a class action lawsuit against the company.
Vizio insisted that it was only collecting and sharing nonpersonal information such as IP addresses and zip codes, but the plaintiffs had researchers coming forward to say that it was easy to figure out who was watching what. –Hollywood Reporter
Last Wednesday, attorneys in the class action suit asked the same judge to extend the deadline for a preliminary settlement – originally scheduled to be publicly detailed on September 12, so that they can notify owners through their TVs.
According to a court filing, “The Parties are developing a class notice program with direct notification to the class through VIZIO Smart TV displays, which requires testing to make sure any TV notice can be properly displayed and functions as intended. The additional time requested will allow the parties to confirm that the notice program proposed in the motion for preliminary approval is workable and satisfies applicable legal standards.”
Attorneys leading the class action say they wish to detail the terms of the settlement by October 3.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also investigated the company, settling with Vizio for just $2.2 million – a slap on the wrist.
Vizio has legal issues all around – as the company has also been pursuing a separate fraud case against China’s LeEcho over a failed $2 billion merger, after the Smart TV manufacturer accused the Chinese company of misrepresenting its financial health and “concocting a secret plan to obtain confidential consumer information,” according to the Reporter.