Vizio Customers Get A Pittance In Settlement Over Snooping Televisions

from the watching-you,-watching-me dept

As we frequently note, most of the “smart” products you buy are anything but intelligent when it comes to your privacy and security. Whether it’s your refrigerator leaking your gmail credentials or your new webcam being hacked in mere minutes for use in massive new DDoS attacks, the so-called “smart” home is actually often dumb as nails and potentially hazardous. So-called smart-televisions have been particularly problematic, whether that has involved companies failing to encrypt sensitive data, or removing features if you refuse to have your daily viewing habits measured and monetized.

Last year Vizio joined this not-so-distinguished club when it was discovered that the company’s TVs had been spying on users for the last several years, starting back in 2014. Vizio’s $2.2 million settlement with the FTC indicates that the company at no time thought it might be a good idea to inform customers this was happening. The snooping was part of a supposed “Smart Interactivity” feature deployed in 2014 that claimed to provide users with programming recommendations, but never actually did so. Its sole purpose was to hoover up your data and help Vizio sell it, without your express consent.

Vizio was also hit with a class action lawsuit over its actions, and the finishing touches on a settlement are just getting hashed out now. Lawyers representing consumers in the case state Vizio secretly tracked and sold the usage habits of around sixteen million Vizio owners for around three years. They’re demanding a settlement of $17 million and a promise from Vizio that this won’t ever happen again:

“Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Vizio will establish a $17 million settlement fund that will deliver money directly to consumers who bought Vizio Smart TVs that were subsequently connected to the Internet between February 1, 2014 and February 6, 2017. Vizio has also stopped tracking what is displayed on its Smart TVs unless a consumer consents to this tracking after receiving a prominent notification. And Vizio will delete the remaining contested viewing data in its possession.”

What this actually means for consumers is a bit less impressive. Ars Technica took a closer look at the court filings in the case and found that consumers are likely to get all of somewhere between $13 and $31 for the inconvenience of being spied on without their permission. Lawyers will, unsurprisingly, get significantly more:

“When it?s all said and done, new court filings submitted on Thursday say each of those 16 million people will get a payout of somewhere between $13 and $31. By contrast, their lawyers will collectively earn a maximum payout of $5.6 million in fees.”

On the plus side, insiders tell Ars Technica that the $17 million being doled out is more than Vizio made from selling this data, which usually isn’t the case in other similar failures of trust (especially by cellular carriers, who’ll often be fined millions for privacy violations that potentially netted them billions). And while Vizio’s promises are good and all, many argue we need stronger public deterrents for companies that fail to respect user privacy, starting first and foremost with efforts to include privacy and security oversights in product reviews.

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Companies: vizio

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Comments on “Vizio Customers Get A Pittance In Settlement Over Snooping Televisions”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

He’s a telecom shill who sold his soul, dignity, pride and probably his grandmother to the highest bidder. He’s got an unrequited hardon for Karl who called him out on some of his stupider lies. He stops by once in a when his alcohol dulled memories of the last time he embarrassed himself and everyone laughed at him, fade a bit.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Hit enter too soon, almost forgot the biggest point.

However, the ‘real’ Bennett once claimed that they never comment signed out, and as such the default assumption should be that anyone posting under the name that isn’t doing so from the account of that name is merely trolling, and therefore should be flagged automatically but otherwise ignored, just like any other troll.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

However, the ‘real’ Bennett once claimed that they never comment signed out

I, too, also believe the fox when he swears he never visits the henhouse during the day.

You know who else pulled off that "not me" bullshit? antidirt. MyNameHere.

Bennett doesn’t deserve benefit of the doubt. After all, he himself claimed identity theft in support of net neutrality repeal was legitimate, despite the people who had their names used arguing otherwise.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Ah, but you see giving him the benefit of the doubt is not for his sake, rather it’s because it puts him in a no-win situation.

By taking him at his word that he never comments signed out he either posts while signed in to his account, in which case he can’t claim that a particular comment wasn’t his and has to own everything he says, or he doesn’t, in which case any comment left under his name can be filed under ‘left by a dishonest troll pretending to be him'(whether that’s true or not) and flagged/ignored.

Of course he could always claim(under his actual account) that he was lying when he made the original statement, but that would just shift the question as to why anyone should trust a self-admitted liar(and one willing to lie for a really pathetic reason at that) and assume he’s telling the truth in anything he says rather than just lying because it’s convenient/he feels like it?

I’m wiling to assume he was telling the truth when he made that claim not because I think he deserves it, but because it leaves him in the position of either standing behind his own words for all to see or having them flagged and/or treated as nothing more than the incoherent ranting of a troll pretending to be him, and I find that sort of ‘hoist by your own petard’ just all sorts of funny.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I used to think that ol’ Dickface didn’t post while signed out.

Then I read his ramblings on Ars Technica and all doubt was removed.

You know, for an industry that’s supposedly dying at the hands of liberals and pirates, they seem to continue to be capable of paying top dollar for a class A cocksucker…

Anonymous Coward says:

“As we frequently note, most of the “smart” products you buy are anything but intelligent when it comes to your privacy and security.”
I disagree with this. The products are indeed very smart.

It’s the dumbasses who keep hooking them up to the internet who aren’t smart.

It’s like Facebook users: they can’t help but talk about themselves to billions of people but get upset when their information is “leaked”.

Give stupid people technology and stupid things happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

10 years later

Is it still possible to buy a refrigerator that does not have wifi silliness, what about washer/dryer

It’s possible. The manufacturers market these "low-end" devices at landlords and property management companies. There’s gotta be a second-hand market somewhere too… people like to throw away working applicances and replace with stainless steel versions when they remodel.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

it seems like a waste to buy something with options/accessories that one will never use

Often it is cheaper for the vendor to make it that way. If all the units are fundamentally the same, then you have less cost of differentiation.

That does not mean that they cannot, via straps or jumpers, enable a subset of the available options.

Car vendors are notorious for this. I used to have one which supposedly lacked the car alarm feture. Certainly there was no user interface provided. However, over the years, something fell off and the car thought it had an alarm, just no way to disarm it other than to disconnect the battery and wait.

Radio vendors likewise. Jumpers let them decide which frequencies you were allowed to hear, based on the intended country of sale.

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