The Federal Trade Commission announced that the American consumer electronics company Vizio will pay up $2.2 million to settle a lawsuit regarding the company's collection of user viewing information then forwarding the same data to third parties.
The penalty will include $1.5 million to the FTC while another million will be handed to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs and $300,000 suspended. Sure, it seems like a big company like Vizio is paying a relatively small sum but it looks like Vizio's brand may take a lot of time to gain back consumer trust after the company allegedly misled its users about the kind of info its smart TVs were gathering.
Vizio's disguised a tech as a "Smart Interactivity" feature which promised to enable "program offers and suggestions." According to the lawsuit, the company did not provide program offers, suggestions nor any program-related information the majority of the TVs for more than 2 years. In the end, Vizio was already tracking viewing data by the time February arrived in 2014 while the company failed to provide explanation about the feature's real capabilities. What's worse was that IP addresses were also being recorded. The smart TV company has been forced to get rid of all the gathered data before March of 2016.
In May 2014, the company shared its collected data. In March 2016, advertising data was being sold by Vizio. The FTC said that the company even said that they were able to capture "up to 100 billion data points each day from more than 10 million VIZIO televisions." The FTC's real beef with Vizio was that the company did not notify the consumers of the data gathering. It could have gotten away with it had they just inform the smart TV users upfront. For now, it might be a good idea for users to carefully take note of any new smart TV features.