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Vizio Reaches $2.2 Million Settlement With FTC

TV manufacturer Vizio settled a $2.2 million lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission. In the suit, the FTC alleged that Vizio secretly collected viewing data and sold it to third parties for years.

The Attorney General of New Jersey and the director of the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs joined the FTC in the suit against Vizio and subsidiary Inscape Services. Though the penalty may appear lax, the suit itself may cause Vizio’s brand irreparable harm.

The data collected was not anonymized, according to the FTC blog post. Vizio sold data detailing a record of shows watched, second by second, along with IP data and metadata like MAC addresses, Wi-Fi connections nearby, etc. Although names were not directly attached to the data, the third-party buyer could match it to individuals of households through the provided details of “sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership,” according to the FTC.

The information was obtained through the “Smart Interactivity” feature on Vizio TVs, which purported to provide “program offers or suggestions.” The lawsuit notes than the feature does not disclose its tracking of viewing habit, nor does it actually provide the offers aforementioned. According to the complaint filed, “Defendants have not provided any ‘program offers or suggestions’ or ‘program-related information’ for most televisions for more than two years,” essentially making the feature a dummy program designed to obtain data. Even more incriminating was the discovery that older TVs without the feature were updated and opted into the program.

In addition to the $2.2 million, the settlement stipulates that Vizio must delete all data collected up until March of 2016 and update its privacy features. $1.5 million of the settlement will go to the FTC. The New Jersey DCA was initially to be awarded $1 million, but $300,000 was suspended from the amount to obtain Vizio’s compliance with the additional terms in the settlement.

Vizio does not admit to any wrongdoing.

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