Lawmakers ask FTC to investigate smart TV privacy concerns

Two senators, alarmed about the potential of smart TVs spying on users in the privacy of their homes, asked the FTC to “launch an investigation into the privacy policies and practices of smart TV manufacturers.”

Wait, what year is this? There’s nothing new about smart TV spying. Zero-day vulnerabilities in Samsung Smart TVs were exposed at the end of 2012; if exploited, attackers could gain control of the webcam and microphone. Smart TVs were called the perfect target for spying on users back in 2013 – the same year as a Black Hat presentation about hacking Samsung Smart TVs. It was not just exploits that allowed for spying as a scandal erupted about LG Smart TV spying in 2013.

Although Samsung took heat in 2015 for its privacy policy and its use of voice recognition – being able to record and listen in on what users were saying – it later came to light that the CIA had a Weeping Angel attack against Samsung Smart TVs back in 2014, making it possible to record conversations and send them back to a covert CIA server.

Also in 2015, thanks to Smart Interactivity, Vizio was busy tracking what 10 million smart TV owners’ were watching and then selling that data to advertisers. Vizio was full of denials, but the FTC slapped Vizio for this. And in 2017, Vizio agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges by the FTC.