You might have heard that Vizio is filing for IPO. In the filing, Vizio reveals that it has sold more than 15 million smart TVs to date but more importantly the filing reveals how Vizio is tracking everything you are watching.
Through “content recognition” software
It is a little known fact that modern Smart TVs track your viewing patterns. There has been some talk about it but Vizio’s IPO filing lays it out flat. The company is using so-called ACR (automatic content recognition) software made by Inscape to track everything you watch on your TV, including TV, movies and games. The system analyzes pictures on screen meaning that it works with all types of content.
The data is anonymized and idea is to use the data for ratings, advertisement and feedback, says Vizio. That might sound harmless at first but based on what we have heard in the past (TVs that are scanning for file names on local drives, microphones that record your spoken words etc.) there is probably room for a healthy dose of skepticism here. It also raises questions such as: who has the data? And is it truly anonymized?
Other TV manufacturers have confirmed that they are also using data mining systems.
Vizio says that the Inscape platform can pull 100 billion data points from 8 million TVs. The company’s new mission statement is to “deliver the ultimate entertainment experience through our community of connected consumers, advertisers and media content providers”. It intends to sell the data to third parties and is hoping to generate income through the practice.
- “We collect, process, store, use and to some extent disclose information collected from or about purchasers and users of our products, and from the devices themselves. The collection and use of personal information, and analysis and sharing of anonymous user data and unique identifiers to inform advertising or analyze viewing behaviors subject us to legislative and regulatory burdens, may expose us to liability, and our actual or perceived failure to adequately protect consumer data could harm our brand, our reputation in the marketplace and our business,” Vizio wrote.
It is possible to opt-out of the tracking, but it is set to "on" per default.
The IPO filing reveals that the company has sold more than 15 million Smart TVs as of the end of June, and that 61 percent of the TVs are connected to the internet. Vizio has sold a total of more than 65 million TVs since 2002.
Vizio’s stocks will trade under the “VZIO” ticker. No date has been announced. The TV manufacturer is also planning to expand sales to other countries.
Inscape Data Services Our Inscape data services have the ability to collect viewing behavior from any content displayed on the screens of our Smart TVs. We currently collect viewing behavior on most content that connects to our Smart TVs via external input. However, we do not currently collect viewing behavior streamed through VIZIO Internet Apps Plus or on Smart TVs located outside the United States....To date, we have entered into data licensing agreements with several analytics service providers and are in discussions with additional potential licensees of our data.
Inscape data services' ability to collect and measure viewing behavior data from content displayed on our entertainment products positions us at the center of the connected entertainment ecosystem. Our Smart TVs can collect viewing data behavior from all media sources that connect via external input to our Smart TVs (e.g., set top boxes, digital video recorders, streaming media players, blu-ray and DVD players and gaming consoles), which generates a richer data set than can be obtained from any single media source. We can deliver this richer data set to advertisers and media content providers, who in turn can deliver more relevant, personalized content for viewers, enhancing the consumer entertainment experience.