Facing Backlash And A UK Govt Inquiry, LG Now Claims To Be 'Looking Into' Its Smart TVs' Data-Slurping Habits
from the oh,-NOW-you're-on-it dept
Before companies expend a ton of effort into managing their social media activities, they should spend some time getting acquainted with how the internet actually works. The net provides a framework for information to spread around the world nearly instantaneously. The lesson here is that there’s no such thing as an “isolated incident.” You can’t just blow off one person’s complaint simply because it came from one person. Because it’s never going to be just one person. It’s going to be thousands. Or millions. [There will always be time later to leverage the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to sell products.]
Case in point #1: geek toy boutique KlearGear uses a bogus non-disparagement clause as an excuse to bill a complaining customer $3,500 and wreck her credit rating. One person who complained translated into a internet’s-worth of negative press. KlearGear has no social media to “manage” anymore because it has locked down its Twitter account and deleted its Facebook presence. And it’s all because they targeted one person with a supremely underhanded “contract.”
Case in point #2: A blogger notices data about files on his USB storage device are being transferred to LG’s servers (in unencrypted form, no less and without permission) by his LG Smart TV. He contacts LG and receives a letter blowing off his complaints and suggesting he take it up with his local retailer.
Cut to a couple of days later and LG’s tune has changed completely.
[W]hen the BBC contacted LG, it indicated it was looking into the complaint.
“Customer privacy is a top priority at LG Electronics and as such, we take this issue very seriously,” said a spokesman.
“We are looking into reports that certain viewing information on LG Smart TVs was shared without consent.
LG originally blew off the blogger’s complaint because, hey, it was just one guy. But it’s never “one guy.” Not anymore. The story has now been covered worldwide and has caught the attention of the UK’s regulatory body charged with enforcing data privacy laws.
The Information Commissioner’s Office told the BBC it was looking into the issue.
“We have recently been made aware of a possible data breach which may involve LG Smart TVs,” said a spokesman.
“We will be making enquiries into the circumstances of the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken.”
To hugely repurpose a Bible verse, if you do this to the least of my brethren, you’ve pretty much done it to everyone. Companies can’t afford to offhandedly dismiss single complaints. At the very least, their responses need to be tailored to specific issue rather than just a boilerplate regurgitation that lets the complainant know he or she isn’t being heard.
And when implementing policies or altering terms and conditions, companies need to think each addition or subtraction through very carefully. Rather than assume no one will ever find out because no one reads T&C pages, companies need to ask themselves, “What would happen if EVERYONE found out about this?” Because the likelihood is that everyone will. And unless your social media strategy is solely composed of unplugging accounts when faced with multiple raging fires, whatever you have implemented at the moment isn’t going to be up to the task should you opt to do something regrettable.
The world may be composed of individuals, but “getting screwed by a company” is a universal concept. Nothing unites people faster than outrage. Keep that in mind before you start siphoning data without permission or ruining people’s credit record with fraudulent charges.
[Update: Things appear to be moving very quickly back at LG HQ. Just as this post was set to roll out the virtual door, news arrives that LG is issuing a firmware update to fix one of its data collection issues.
In a statement, LG said that its smart TVs collect viewing information like channel, TV platform, and broadcast source in order to “deliver more relevant advertisements and to offer recommendations to viewers based on what other LG Smart TV owners are watching.”
The company’s TVs include the option to turn off this data collection, but “we have verified that even when this function is turned off by the viewers, it continues to transmit viewing information although the data is not retained by the server,” LG said.
“A firmware update is being prepared for immediate rollout that will correct this problem on all affected LG Smart TVs so when this feature is disabled, no data will be transmitted,” the company said.
Now, if it can just get it to stop scanning attached drives and gathering that data as well… Until that’s addressed, at least simply turning off the data transmission will keep that info from going anywhere.]