Two United States Senators asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate the privacy policies and practices of smart TV manufacturers.
In mid-July, Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) submitted a letter to Joseph Simons, Chairman of the FTC, asking him to open an investigation.
As the Senators noted in their letter:
Many internet-connected smart TVs are equipped with sophisticated technologies that can track the content users are watching and then use that information to tailor and deliver targeted advertisements to consumers. By identifying the broadcast and cable shows, video games, over-the-top content like Netflix, and other applications that users are viewing, smart TVs can compile detailed profiles about users’ preferences and characteristics. Recent reports even suggest that smart TVs can identify users’ political affiliations based on whether they watch conservative or liberal media outlets.
The two Congressmen also referenced Vizio’s agreement to pay $2.2 million to settle complaints that the smart TV maker collected data on viewing habits from 11 million TVs without consumers’ knowledge or consent.
Included in their letter is a clarification that Congress has previously required companies to be more transparent about their data practices with respect to TV viewers. The Senators explained how Congress in 1984 acted to require that cable operators detail their data practices. They said the legislative branch of the federal government did the same with satellite carriers some two decades later.
Senators Markey and Blumenthal ended their letter with an appeal to the ongoing protection of users’ personal data, noting that “users should be given the opportunity to affirmatively consent to the collection and use of their sensitive information, while still having access to the core functions of smart TV technology.”
As of this writing, it’s unclear whether Simons received the letter and how he intends to respond if he has.