Smart TVs Incapable of Preventing Tracking
A study by American University Princeton has revealed that the available countermeasures in Smart TVs are ineffective at preventing data tracking.
First reported by The Verge, the study is the first large-scale study of tracking Over-the-Top (OTT) streaming channels, which has revealed “widespread user tracking and data collection.”
Conducted using a ‘smart crawler’ that automatically installs itself inside a smart TV, the program launches an interaction with the OTT channel to determine the prevalence of data trackers.
Princeton University was able to locate the presence of data trackers on 69% of Roku channels and 89% of Amazon Fire TV channels.
Alarmingly, the study also identified over 60 tracking domains that data can be shared to including video titles, WiFi SSIDs, MAC addresses and device serial numbers.
What’s worse is that in almost 80% of cases for both Roku and Fire TV Channels, at least one ‘unencrypted HTTP request’ was sent.
Even the Roku TV “Limit Ad Tracking” option was unable to prevent data tracking with contacted domains increasing while in effect.
Unfortunately, Fire TV “Disable Interest-based ads” option was only slightly better.
Based on the findings by Princeton, they recommend OTT vendors to provide a more ‘privacy-friendly and secure experience’ for users.
However, they do highlight ‘the tendency of companies to monetise users’ data’ which inevitably leaves enforcement up to regulators.