They are called smart TVs, but they could be doing more than being that smart and intelligent TV in your living room or game room.
A report published on DoctorBeet’s Blog, revealed that the author’s new LG Smart TV was calling home, sending detailed information about the author’s viewing habits to a (remote) LG server and using that information to display targeted ads on the Smart TV’s Smart Landing Screen. LG calls the program Smart Ads.
Isn’t that the same stunt that Canonical has been pulling on Ubuntu users? I think it is, but there’s a big difference here. On Ubuntu, you could easily turn the online search feature off and uninstall one or to packages. End of story, no more ads.
With the LG Smart TV, however, it appears that the homing pigeon feature will still work whether you leave it ON (the default) or turn it OFF (it’s the Collection of watching info option in the screen shot below). Now, that’s pure evil. LG ought to be ashamed. But LG is not bothered by the shame thing. To them, this is serious business. It’s all about advertising. That means money, lots of it. And that’s all that matters.
Here’s what the author found out about the LG Smart Ad program:
LG Smart Ad analyses users favourite programs, online behaviour, search keywords and other information to offer relevant ads to target audiences. For example, LG Smart Ad can feature sharp suits to men, or alluring cosmetics and fragrances to women. Furthermore, LG Smart Ad offers useful and various advertising performance reports. That live broadcasting ads cannot. To accurately identify actual advertising effectiveness.
The author wrote a very detailed blog post on his findings. You may read it here. Though this report is about LG Smart TVs, it is also likely that other smart TV vendors are doing the same thing. If you have a smart TV and have free time to spare, hook up your smart TV to the same hub that your computer is connected to (use a switch if it supports port mirroring). Then run Wireshark on the PC to sniff traffic coming from the TV to the outside world.