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While You Watch TV, Your TV is Watching You

Your social media accounts are tracking you. Now The New York Times recently released an exposÉ on the data mining techniques of another form of technology—smart TVs. Market researchers concluded that by the end of 2017, over 45 percent of US households had at least one smart TV, and often those TVs run software that track entertainment habits, gathering data that can be sold to advertisers. While these data-gathering programs usually require an opt-in process, critics say that consumers don't get a clear sense of what they're opting into because the language is so vague.

One such vendor, Samba TV, entices users with the following verbiage: "Interact with your favorite shows. Get recommendations based on the content you love. Connect your devices for exclusive content and special offers. By cleverly recognizing onscreen content, Samba Interactive TV lets you engage with your TV in a whole new way."

However, in typical software format, users cannot opt-in without agreeing to Samba TV's terms of service and privacy policy, another ten thousand or more words that couldn't be read on that same screen.

Consumer advocates like Justin Brookman aren't happy. "People have rebelled to the online targeted ad experience," Mr. Brookman said, "and I think they wouldn't necessarily expect that from their TV."

Potential Preaching Angles: Don't trust so much in technology that you can't live without it. Private choices sometimes have public consequences.

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