Your every move is being tracked. If you didn’t realize it by now, get used to it.
Because it will only become more widespread in the coming days, months and years. The Consumer Reports headlines this week about how smart TVs are monitoring your watching got a lot of attention, but it should hardly be a surprise.
If you’re on the Web, and haven’t jacked up your privacy settings, your clicks, taps and likes are feeding databases that funnel into the giant marketing engine that supports free Internet services.
Your mobile phone already tracks every move you make, thanks to GPS and the location tracking feature on most apps. When you surf online on your computer, Google, Amazon, Facebook and others know which websites you went to, how long you spent there, what you clicked on, with whom you interacted with, which stores you spent money with and more. Unless, that is, you remembered to browse anonymously, turn off ad targeting and a host of other privacy hygiene tasks.
They probably know how old you are, where you live and have a pretty good idea of your interests. If you don’t like this, there’s one solution. Unplug. Or fight back and adjust your settings. But good luck.
Any device that’s connected to the Internet is thus peering into your world. This year’s CES show in Las Vegas was highlighted by much attention on connected speakers that can flush toilets or turn on showers with voice commands. Great, here’s some new info tech companies didn’t need to know about—our bathroom habits. LG and Samsung touted connected stoves, refrigerators and other kitchen devices that open up even more tracking to our homes. New connected cars tout always-on features.
So yes, we’re being tracked on the highway now, too.
The smart TV snooping sounds eerie at first, but I don’t have a major problem with it. For decades the Nielsen company has been trying to measure what we watch, to mixed results, at least according to broadcasterswho have complained about under-reported audiences for years. Before we started to buy everything online, big box retailers and credit cards were tracking purchases at the register, the better to offer you deals on related goods.
Like Web browsers, Smart TVs just make the monitoring of our habits more precise. According to Consumer Reports, the top five TV sets sold in the U.S. — Samsung, LG, Sony, Vizio and TCL brand Roku —now have tracking features built into the sets, and many can monitor your Internet streaming as well as anything you watch over broadcast and DVD. Users who balk about being tracked need to make sure to opt out in the settings, something most consumers don’t bother with.
If you own the Roku streaming player, which connects to TVs to stream online entertainment, and tracking bothers you, you’ll need to go in and change your settings there as well.
And if smart TV tracking still upsets you, there are ways to turn it off. But then you might also get rid of your smartphone, only use your computer without Wi-fi or ethernet access, don’t ask for Alexa or the Google Assistant in the home, unplug your Ring video doorbell and Nest thermostat, and hold off on on buying that connected fridge from LG.
A better solution. Learn to deal with life in 2018 and take another look at your privacy settings. Because we’re not going back to analog anytime soon.