Legal Issues

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
class action, privacy, smart tv, surveillance

Companies:
vizio



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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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2018 @ 6:51pm

    Vizio should be dissolved and everyone deported from this country who had anything to do with the spying tv production.Those who were doing the spying should have to line up in front of a firing squad.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Richard Bennett, 15 Oct 2018 @ 8:09pm

    Nice try, McBodeface

    I'd rather be watched by the government than agree with a piracy apologist. After all, I have nothing to hide. Especially my hatred for left-wing assholes like you, and your minions on Ars Technica.

    Drink!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 15 Oct 2018 @ 8:19pm

      I'd rather be watched by the government than agree with a piracy apologist.

      That is so pitiful it wraps around to being hilarious. I call it pitilarious.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Richard Bennett, 15 Oct 2018 @ 8:29pm

        Re:

        You know what's hilarious?

        Net neutrality is dead. Pirates aren't going to run our government, sorry! Why don't you go back to calling me Dick, dick.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2018 @ 9:16pm

          Fine. You’re a prolapsed anus.

          Looks like someone’s got a face full of cheap whiskey and a full nappy.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 15 Oct 2018 @ 11:40pm

          Net neutrality is dead. Pirates aren't going to run our government, sorry!

          …fucking what

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Oct 2018 @ 7:21am

          Re: Re:

          Funny, although not really, I've watched them pirates usurping America's government the last 6 (six) decades. Those pirates are now so deeply embedded they consider themselves upstanding politicians fighting the good fight for America's best interests. No, its not funny at all.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        techflaws (profile), 15 Oct 2018 @ 9:32pm

        Re:

        Who's this assclown anyway?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2018 @ 9:40pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 16 Oct 2018 @ 12:42am

            Re: Re: Re:

            Either that or a troll pretending to be him, but given the source material it's all but impossible to tell between genuine loon or someone merely acting crazy.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 16 Oct 2018 @ 12:50am

            Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2018 @ 2:21am

              Re: Re: Re: 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.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                That One Guy (profile), 16 Oct 2018 @ 3:26am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2018 @ 5:06am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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...

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 19 Oct 2018 @ 4:17pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    His desk was moved to the basement and no one has been paying him for over three years I heard!

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2018 @ 10:41pm

    Remember back when google got the $1.00 fine after being found guilty of drive by data theft from home computers? They should have put google out of business then. I hope this fucking skank of a rotgut smegma corporation goes straight to hell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2018 @ 3:19am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2018 @ 3:55am

      Re:

      Is it still possible to buy a refrigerator that does not have wifi silliness, what about washer/dryer ... it seems like a waste to buy something with options/accessories that one will never use.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 16 Oct 2018 @ 4:30am

    $13? That's one of the biggest class action awards I've seen. Still holding a check from TD Bank that's supposed to make amends for lobby-located coin counting machines that chronically undercounted the contents of my pickle jar full of pocket change. I haven't needed the 56 cents yet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Paul, 17 Oct 2018 @ 8:10am

      Re:

      The lowest class action settlement I received was a check for $0.13. However, I was able to enhance the value of it 50 fold by putting it in a picture frame from Goodwill and hanging it in my office.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Oct 2018 @ 7:49pm

    Re: 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 19 Oct 2018 @ 4:35am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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