Vizio has agreed to fork over $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.
The sum will settle charges with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New Jersey attorney general’s office, announced the FTC in a press release on Monday.
According to the agencies’ complaint, beginning in February 2014, the company manufactured smart TVs that automatically captured second-by-second information about video displayed on the smart TV.
This included video from consumer cable, broadband, set-top box, DVD, over-the-air broadcasts and other streaming devices.
In addition to collecting this data, the federal and state agencies alleged that the company sold demographic information to third parties, including viewers’ sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value.
“The complaint alleges that Vizio’s data tracking – which occurred without viewers’ informed consent – was unfair and deceptive, in violation of the FTC Act and New Jersey consumer protection laws,” said the FTC.
A stipulated federal court order requires Vizio to prominently disclose and obtain consent for its data collection and sharing practices. It also prohibits misrepresentations about the privacy, security, or confidentiality of consumer information the company collects.
Furthermore, Vizio was ordered to delete data collected before March 1, 2016, and to implement a comprehensive data privacy program.
The fine includes a $1.5 million payment to the FTC and $1 million to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
Vizio’s general counsel Jerry Huang responded to the FTC settlement in a statement, saying the company was pleased to reach a resolution.
“Going forward, this resolution sets a new standard for best industry privacy practices for the collection and analysis of data collected from today’s internet-connected televisions and other home devices,” said Huang.
The company also noted that the program never paired viewing data with personally identifiable information, such as name or contact information.
“Today, the FTC has made clear that all smart TV makers should get people’s consent before collecting and sharing television viewing information and Vizio now is leading the way,” the company stated.