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The Hidden Cost of Cheap TVs

The Atlantic (free link) – Screens have gotten inexpensive—and they’re watching you back.”…But the story of cheap TVs is not entirely just market forces doing their thing. Perhaps the biggest reason TVs have gotten so much cheaper than other products is that your TV is watching you and profiting off the data it collects. Modern TVs, with very few exceptions, are “smart,” which means they come with software for streaming online content from Netflix, YouTube, and other services. Perhaps the most common media platform, Roku, now comes built into TVs made by companies including TCL, HiSense, Philips, and RCA. But there are many more operating systems: Google has Google TV, which is used by Sony, among other manufacturers, and LG and Samsung offer their own. Smart TVs are just like search engines, social networks, and email providers that give us a free service in exchange for monitoring us and then selling that info to advertisers leveraging our data. These devices “are collecting information about what you’re watching, how long you’re watching it, and where you watch it,” Willcox said, “then selling that data—which is a revenue stream that didn’t exist a couple of years ago.” There’s nothing particularly secretive about this—data-tracking companies such as Inscape and Samba proudly brag right on their websites about the TV manufacturers they partner with and the data they amass…”

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