LG Will Take The 'Smart' Out Of Your Smart TV If You Don't Agree To Share Your Viewing And Search Data With Third Parties

from the privacy-policy-lobotomy dept

Techdirt reader Oldlad stuck this through the Submissions slot recently:

Because I will not agree to LG's Privacy Policy, I can now no longer access/use any of of the TV's network based programs: Iplayer, Skype, 3D etc.

As of the 7th May following a software update to our less than two year old LG TV. I was confronted with a message asking me to read and agree with a couple of important new documents. So like a good little citizen I read and agreed with the first doc regarding use of said TV. but having read the Privacy Doc I was not best pleased with the companies assumption that I would simply agree to their sharing all our intimate viewing details (plus what ever else they can see)with all and sundry.

Since I agreed not to hack into installed software (as if I Could)We cannot get around the block.

I think the company must be in breach of contract since the smart functions are no longer available. Surely in the uk at least you should not be able to change the goal posts at will. Any one sorted this problem yet??

Before some smart alec says "Take It back". We bought the set because it satisfied our criteria at the time. We did not expect some legal bully to come along nearly two years later and tell us to share all our information with the world OR ELSE??
Oldlad poses good questions. Does a manufacturer have the right to "brick" certain integral services just because the end user doesn't feel comfortable sharing a bunch of info with LG and other, unnamed third parties?

LG certainly feels it has the right to do this. In fact, it makes no secret of this in its long Privacy Policy -- a document that spends more time discussing the lack thereof, rather than privacy itself. The opening paragraph makes this perfectly clear.
Our Privacy Policy explains and seeks your agreement for how we collect, use, and share information that we obtain as a result of your use of LG Smart TV Services, as well as how we use cookies. You do not have to agree to the Privacy Policy but if you do not, not all Smart TV Services will be available to you. [emphasis added] In that case, we will still receive certain non-identifying information from your Smart TV that we need to provide the basic functions that will be available.
So, even if you don't agree to share information, you'll still be sharing information. To top it off, you won't be able to use many of the functions that put the "smart" into LG's Smart TV.

Here's a list of just some of the information LG grabs in order to ensure your Smart TV can be its smartest.
Viewing Information. This refers to information about your interactions with program content, including live TV content, movies, and video on demand. Viewing Information may include the name of the channel or program watched, requests to view content, the terms you use to search for content, details of actions taken while viewing (e.g., play, stop, pause, etc.), the duration that content was watched, input method (RF, Component, HDMI) and search queries.
Additional information will be collected if you use the "smart" features, most of which require the creation of an LG SmartWorld account.
For example, some of our services require that you become a member of LG SmartWorld, which may be subject to separate terms. You may join LG SmartWorld either through your LG Smart TV or by other means, such as through certain LG websites. This Membership Information may include your user ID, password, telephone number, name, date of birth, gender, email address, address, social networking service ID, security question answers, purchase history, and related payment information, such as credit card information or details of your PayPal account and more.
There's nothing particularly unusual about the LG SmartWorld data being collected, considering its tied to paid services and apps. The greater concern would be the wealth of viewing information (including "internet searches") that's collected as part of a person's non-"smart" usage.

This concern grows when you see the list of potential recipients of this information.
•When you use LivePlus, we may share certain Viewing Information, Device Information, and Basic Usage Information with third parties for advertising or analytics purposes and to enable the provision of information relevant to what you are viewing;

•To third party vendors that LGE may engage to provide services on its behalf from time to time, such as to collect payment for content you purchase or to fulfill customer service requests or to provide advertising services
LG seems very concerned that Smart TV owners won't allow it to provide them with "relevant ads." This focus on advertising might give one the impression that a Smart TV is subsidized by ad sales, rather than paid for completely by the end user.

When LG was caught sending plaintext data on files stored on customers' USB devices, it amended its policies and data collection tactics to exclude this data. This happened not on the strength of a customer complaint (in fact, LG told the customer to take it up with the store that sold him the TV) but because the UK government announced its intention to dig into LG's practices and see if they conformed with the Data Protection Act.

While it may have removed that particularly egregious bit of data slurping, it still intends to gather as much data as possible in order to deliver advertising, something almost every purchaser would be willing to see less of. Oldlad asks whether the company can, under UK law, simply "move the goalposts" at will, thereby providing customers with a product with fewer features than the one they purchased.

UK law does offer some additional protections in this regard. The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulation of 1999 notes the following in its long list of specified "unfair terms."
enabling the seller or supplier to alter unilaterally without a valid reason any characteristics of the product or service to be provided
LG presenting customers with the false choice of a) giving up control of their data or b) losing access to a great deal of the Smart TV features could be construed as "altering the characteristics of the product." A lot would depend on the investigating agency's definition of "valid reason." LG's Privacy Policy claims that most of what it collects is essential to provide these "smart" services. Indeed, many of them are. But there's also plenty in that wording that indicates LG is collecting additional information solely for the purpose of providing ads. Whether or not that's a legally "valid reason" is still up for discussion.

In its defense, LG may point to the fact that this Privacy Notice is published online and could be accessed by anyone looking to purchase a Smart TV. While factually correct, the reality of the situation is that the same number of people who would proactively search out privacy policies and T&Cs before purchasing a product are roughly the same number that would balk at clicking the "Accept" button on a dialog box post-firmware update -- statistically insignificant. That number would leap appreciably if LG's intentions were laid bare in the Privacy Policy dialog box, stating something to the effect that agreeing to the policy meant allowing LG to collect and disseminate search terms, search queries and content viewed to third parties.

Being upfront doesn't result in nearly as much profitable data, however. And those who opt out, like Oldlad, are left with plain, vanilla TV rather than the smarter version they shelled out extra for.

Filed Under: privacy, smart tv, terms of service, tv
Companies: lg

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  1. identicon
    Pragmatic, 22 May 2014 @ 6:33am

    Re: Re:

    Whoa, Michael. Remember that scandal where kids who had laptops from school were being spied on at home? Stuxnet's ability to take over cameras and use them without even turning on the light so you'd know whether it was on or not?

    While I've often disagreed with gorehound on other matters, I think he's called it right today.

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