How to turn off snooping smart TV features

How to turn off snooping smart TV features

Televisions from Samsung, LG, and Vizio have technology that tracks what you watch. Here's how to shut it off.

Published: March 22, 2015 08:00 AM
Samsung's SyncPlus menu

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A few weeks ago, I investigated automatic content recognition (ACR) systems found on televisions from Samsung, LG, and Vizio. This technology, which has been deeply integrated into many smart TVs since 2012, is designed to identify what viewers are watching, then send that information in real time to the TV manufacturers' third-party vendors. Those vendors are generally companies that most consumers have never heard of, such as Enswers and Cognitive Networks, which hope to use customer viewing habits for marketing or analytics purposes.

The feedback I've gotten from most readers is: "I don't want my TV tracking me. How can I turn this stuff off?" If you pay close attention when you first set up your television, all three manufacturers give you a chance to opt out of these technologies while reviewing their privacy policies. But if you're like most people, you didn't scrutinize the lengthy legalese when you were trying to get your new TV up and running. And that's okay, because all of these smart TVs have menu settings you can use to shut the content-sniffing features down later. Here's where to look.

Samsung

Samsung's ACR controls are found under its TVs' "Smart Hub" menu. Look for a submenu titled "Terms & Policy," then select "SyncPlus and Marketing." There you'll be given the option to disable the feature. By the way, while you're in the Terms & Policy menu, you might want to consider turning off "Voice Recognition Services" (which will disable voice control—another controversial feature that sends your voice commands to a third-party vendor for processing), and you may want to disagree with the "Yahoo Privacy Policy" as well (Yahoo is an interactive content partner of Samsung's).
Want to learn more about how to protect your privacy? Check out our Paranoid's guide to digital security.

LG

During our investigation, LG stated that ACR technology is not currently enabled on some of its newer WebOS sets. However, plenty of LG TVs still run its earlier smart TV interface, and those televisions use a version of ACR called "Live Plus." You can disable Live Plus by looking in the settings for the "Options" menu, then opening the "Live Plus" submenu. There you can toggle the feature on and off.

Vizio

Vizio calls its content recognition system "Smart Interactivity." You can find it under the System settings. The controls for Smart Interactivity can be found in a menu called "Reset & Admin."  Set the feature to "off" and it should disable the ACR.
 
—Glenn Derene

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