A Defensive Computing Checklist    by Michael Horowitz
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One reason Televisions are so cheap is because of advertising, and to make that advertising effective, the TV has to spy on you.

Part of the spying is Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) which watches the screen along with you. No matter the source of the video on the screen, ACR is watching and it takes a screenshot twice a second. The screen shot is sent to the cloud to identify what you are watching. You can probably disable ACR, but the game is rigged against you. In the worst case, it may take 37 clicks (see the December 2023 article from The Markup in the Articles section below).

Defensive Computing cheat sheet: Do not connect a smart TV to the Internet, instead use an external streaming box such as Roku. Keep the streaming box powered off when not in use. When the TV needs software updates, use Ethernet if possible. If Wi-Fi is the only option, make a new network (SSID) for the TV, do the updates, then delete the Wi-Fi network.

Good introduction to the topic: The Hidden Cost of Cheap TVs by Justin Pot for The Atlantic. January 3, 2023. Quoting: "the story of cheap TVs is not entirely just market forces doing their thing. Perhaps the biggest reason TVs have gotten so much cheaper than other products is that your TV is watching you and profiting off the data it collects ... Smart TVs are just like search engines, social networks, and email providers that give us a free service in exchange for monitoring us and then selling that info to advertisers leveraging our data ... The companies that manufacture televisions call this 'post-purchase monetization,' and it means they can sell TVs almost at cost and still make money over the long term by sharing viewing data."

Background: Smart TV Makers Will Soon Make More Money Off Your Viewing Habits Than The TV Itself by Karl Bode (May 2021). We can not buy a "dumb" TV that's just a display with HDMI ports because consumer data is so profitable.

Background: Reg reader returns Samsung TV after finding giant ads splattered everywhere by Gareth Corfield for The Register (November 2021). Note the excerpt at the end from the Samsung privacy policy: the manufacturer will collect "the networks, channels, websites visited, and programs viewed on your devices and the amount of time spent viewing them ".







One of the companies watching you is incscape.tv. See their sample of live data.

Samsung can remotely disable their TVs worldwide using TV Block by Sergiu Gatlan of Bleeping Computer (August 2021)

Audio: For many reasons, the audio on TV sets is poor such that it makes it hard to understand what people are saying. Some TVs have a feature to boost the dialog or reduce loud noises. On Samsung look for the Amplify feature. On LG, look for Clear Voice II. On Roku TVs look for Dialog Enhancement or Speech Clarity. If you can afford to, connect the TV to a stereo system or a sound bar that has a center speaker.


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