back to article In China, the Smart TV watches you, shares IP address, Wi-Fi SSIDs, viewing habits, and more

Chinese TV-maker Skyworth has admitted that some of its Android-powered smart televisions shared more data than it agreed to send to a third-party organisation. A statement from the company explains that some of its tellies sent information about owners’ viewing habits to a company called “Gozen Data”. But Skyworth accused …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, China is now playing catch up with

    the UK?

  2. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Meh

    The smart TV watches you wherever you are in the world

    LG was caught snooping on LAN shares.

    Vizio sent unencrypted analytics data and frame captures without explaining what use it was going to be put to.

    Some models of Samsung TVs may have an always-on camera and microphone, others may make you press a button on the remote before recording from the microphone but all sent microphone recordings to a third party, sent unencrypted data, and have non-existent security.

    ACR identifies what you're watching and when whatever the source.

    The best you're going to get are weasel words privacy settings which allegedly give you options which anonymise your data or turn off tracking, but they're still going to slurp.

    Best not to plug the damn thing into the Internet.

    1. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: The smart TV watches you wherever you are in the world

      Best not to plug the damn thing into the Internet.

      Precisely.

      It's a TV. I don't use streaming services (the broadband out here would have to buffer probably overnight).

      My sky box nags asks me to connect to a router when it is powered on and I never do. It has been connected to a phone line once and only once at initial setup as that is a required step.

      It can scan all it wants but as I physically turn my router off when I don't need it, it will be nicely contained within the confines of my home. As my nearest neighbour is about 400 yards away their router sometimes shows up on the list but not very often.

      I recently got a new TV which has dozens of apps that splash on the screen at startup, which gets quickly turned off.

      To TV manufacturers: If I wanted an internet connected data slurper, I would buy one. Stick to rendering the image.

      </rant>

    2. nagi

      Re: The smart TV watches you wherever you are in the world

      > Best not to plug the damn thing into the Internet.

      I wish it was that easy, but IIRC Samsung got a patent for building a mesh using their TVs to provide upload capabilities even if that particular TV was never plugged in the net. Yep, you pretty much need to either get a dumb TV (which is getting more and more impossible) or jailbreak it and disable most stuff on it.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: The smart TV watches you wherever you are in the world

        It's good of Samsung to patent it, that just means you don't need to buy a Samsung.

      2. DS999
        Thumb Down

        Wow I didn't think Samsung could sink any lower

        Basically you wouldn't be able to prevent Samsung from slurping your data so long as your TV was within wifi range of someone else's Samsung TV (or maybe even Samsung smartphone?) to forward your data to be forwarded to the internet!

    3. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: The smart TV watches you wherever you are in the world

      My Hisense is plugged into the satellite box and the Grundig has a terrestrial antenna connected, if the two of them get more than a couple of hours a month in use I would be amazed.

    4. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: The smart TV watches you wherever you are in the world

      That's one of the reasons why I keep using Dumb TVs. The other being that so called smart TVs are a safety nightmare, not just a privacy one

    5. HildyJ Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: The smart TV watches you wherever you are in the world

      Beside watching and reporting what you watch (once a second in some cases), some TVs and apps log your email account and IP address (and goddess knows what else). And all protected by the IoT security we know and love. Most will push patches without you knowing it and the patches could reset whatever privacy settings you've managed to find and change.

      1. EricB123

        Re: The smart TV watches you wherever you are in the world

        Then they try to sell you a smart refrigerator...

        Maybe the smart refrigerator will team up with the smart tv to lock you out of your house?

  3. mittfh
    Big Brother

    I'm mildly surprised...

    ...the snooping allegedly wasn't at the request of the CCP...

  4. Potemkine! Silver badge

    In China only?

    I doubt it.

  5. hoola Silver badge

    Insidious Creep or "Slurpee"

    This issue is just going to get worse because ultimately it is all about money. Money for all the companies in the food chain that can make money by selling data gathered from individuals. There is no regulation other than vague statements about how your data is used, stored kept and shared. What is really bad and needs stamping on (but it won't happen) with an iron fist is the need to sign up to to something just to turn the sodding TV, gadget or whatever on.

    That it is now seen as completely acceptable to have microphones and cameras doing nothing more than spy is total shite. What the hell is wrong with a remote control? It uses Infra Red and and just works. Why this obsession with voice control of everything other than the minor detail that it means everything has an active microphone and has to connected to the Internet to work?

  6. Magani
    Big Brother

    Who owns what?

    I'm confused (or is that Confucius?). A quick search on the Interwebs brings up the following:-

    Gozen Data is funded by 2 investors. Huan.tv and Skyworth are the most recent investors.

    Is that the same Skyworth that was allegedly unaware what was going on? Only in China...

    1. X5-332960073452
      Alert

      Re: Who owns what?

      Chinese walls?

  7. @Sujith

    Wow. That sounds illegal.

    Seems like every tech the giants roll out and we use to have one sole purpose. Watching/monitoring the citizens. Privacy is becoming a talking point.

    Needs to consider it seriously.

  8. Mr Dogshit

    Suppose they don't make a profit on selling the actual telly any more, and the data slurping is what generates income.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "smart decision making for connected TVs”

    The only smart decision is to not connect it.

    I want a screen, not an integrated streaming service.

    If you want to give additional functionality fine, make a box that connects to the screen, but don't fuck with my screen.

    This is something I really don't get. You can buy a stereo system in one block, or you can buy the amplifier, the CD reader, the radio reciever and the speakers of the quality you want all separately and connect them together and this has been the standard for the past fifty years.

    If I buy a TV, I still need to be able to hook up the DVD player, an eventual BluRay player, and my good ol' VHS (yes, I still have one and it functions fine). Now, of course, I also need to hook up my ISP's TV box, otherwise I don't get the local channels. So what is the point in connecting the TV on top of all that ?

    Yes, I know, money, but I don't see the point for me.

    I have a Philips MatchLine Pixel Plus that has been working for two decades now. It looks pretty much like this. It's a beast. It takes two sturdy guys to move it, but it works flawlessly and the image quality is exceptional.

    I'm hoping that it will hold out for a while longer because I just know that, when it dies, I'm in for a world of hurt finding a replacement that will not only give me the same or better image quality, but also respect my privacy.

    1. DS999

      Re: "smart decision making for connected TVs”

      Judging by the above mention of a Samsung mesh patent, "not connecting it" may no longer be sufficient.

      My girlfriend got an LG TV that kept complaining it wanted to be connected to the wifi, so I set up a dummy second SSID on her router that can't access the internet. Pointed it at that and it no longer complains while still being unable to reach the internet.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: "smart decision making for connected TVs”

        And how long before that stops working...or they set up a whispernet so that they don't necessarily need your Internet connection to send their data?

        And as for breaking antennae, how long before that bricks your TV and voids the warranty while you're at it (and they'll be able to get out of it in court because it was your fault for tampering with the machine).

  10. Plest
    Facepalm

    China and smart devices?

    Safe to say they're probably putting both together using Orwell's 1984 as the playbook!

  11. TimMaher Silver badge
    Unhappy

    I feel the need for...

    Yet another RPI, to act as a proxy and change all of the entertainment devices to fixed IP addresses.

    Then manage any outbound that they think they will get away with whilst still being able to use some web only streaming services.

    Sigh..

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh! That's Handy!!!

    Link: https://www.apple.com/uk/icloud/find-my/

    Scroll down.....it says:

    "You can even find devices that are offline.

    If your missing device can’t connect to the internet, the Find My app can still help you track it down using the Find My network — hundreds of millions of iPhone, iPad and Mac devices around the world. Nearby devices securely send the location of your missing device to iCloud, then you can see where it is in the Find My app. It’s all anonymous and encrypted to protect everyone’s privacy."

    *

    The wonders of Bluetooth -- device is "offline", but thanks to the wonders of everyone else's Bluetooth, Apple can still see the device!

    *

    More of the same coming to a device near you -- and sooner than you think!

    1. PeeKay

      Re: Oh! That's Handy!!!

      To be fair, you can turn the 'Find My' feature off on Apple devices.

      Whether it actually does what it says is another matter.

  13. bobbear
    Big Brother

    You sort of expect it..

    .. from Chinese made devices, i.e. most of them.. I recently installed a Hikvision 'Colorvu' cctv camera, (Western region..), and on setting it up I noticed that the 'privacy mask' function was disabled for a few mS every 15 minutes or so, allowing whatever it was hiding to be seen in plain view. On checking around I discovered at least one other person had spotted it.. A bug? most unlikely - more likely a hangover from an original Chinese market development firmware version.. Needless to say, I would never dream of connecting them to the internet - no way, Pedro. Pass me my tinfoil hat..

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