Hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers had a surprise discovery last week: Their TV sets know a lot more about them than they’d ever thought, or ever agreed to.
It turns out Beijing-based Gozen Data, a leading Chinese TV viewership analytics firm, has been collecting personal data in real time using smart TVs — without users’ consent.
The practice was first exposed when a user on V2EX, an online forum for tech enthusiasts, noticed their Skyworth-brand smart TV had become slow and analyzed the code of back-end programs to figure out why. What they found was a program that scans the user’s Wi-Fi every 10 minutes and uploads a wide range of information to Gozen Data’s website.
“What smart devices are used at home; whether your phone is at home; who is visiting and using your Wi-Fi; what’s the name of your neighbor’s Wi-Fi; all of these are constantly being collected and uploaded,” the user wrote on April 22. The finding was later reposted on Weibo, attracting widespread concern.
Discussions about illegal data-collecting practices are common in China, but mostly center on smartphone apps, which Chinese regulators have been scrutinizing over the past year. This appears to be the first high-profile, publicly-disclosed instance of data security concerns centering on smart TVs.
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