Friday, November 22, 2013

In Soviet Russia (and on LG televisions), TV watches you!

You THINK you're watching your LG smart TV - but IT's WATCHING YOU, baby • The Register

According to Yorkshire, UK–based hacker "DoctorBeet," the internet-enabled sets try to phone home to LG every time a viewer changes the channel, giving the chaebol the ability to track exactly which channels are being watched, minute by minute.

Using network packet-sniffing tools, DoctorBeet discovered that his set was also transmitting the names of media files he played off USB storage, which he observes could potentially be embarrassing for those in the habit of watching less savory downloaded fare.
Disturbingly, however, there doesn't seem to be any way to opt out of the data collection. DoctorBeet observed that while his TV did have an option called "Collection of watching info" in its settings menu, the data was still transmitted whether the option was set to on or off.

This coupled with the fact that when DoctorBeet complained to LG, he got a brush off (you clicked "I accept" so we can do anything we want) tells me that LG is not a company that should be trusted at all. Time to scratch them off of the list of companies I'm willing to do business with.

I'm more than a little bit worried now about how many other smart TVs are doing the same thing. LG was merely the first to get caught. It may be time to buy a firewall device to insert on my LAN between the router and the modem so I can start blackholing the servers that appliances phone-home to.


Drew said...

But probably not a problem if I change channels through a cable box instead of through the TV and don't use the USB dongle (since it's connected to a PC via HDMI)?

Shamino said...

Not so much under this circumstance, but one of the reasons for using a smart TV is that you can stream video from internet sources without a separate set-top box or computer attached.