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Roku TVs will track what you watch to serve recommendations, target ads

26 Apr 2017 | Rasmus Larsen |

The latest software update for Roku OS is using ACR (Automatic Content Recognition) to track what you are watching via cable and antenna to suggest “additional viewing options via streaming”. It will also allow Roku to target ads.

Automatic Content Recognition

Samsung is using is it, LG is using it, and Vizio settled with the FTC and agreed to pay a $2.2 million fine for using it without consent. Now Roku will start using Automatic Content Recognition - or ACR.

ACR does exactly what you think it does. It uses image recognition software to scan everything that appears on your screen, meaning that it can easily detect if you are watching an episode of ‘Friends’. It does not matter what source you are watching it from.

Roku explains that it will use ACR to improve the streaming experience. If you are watching an episode of Friends via cable or antenna, your Roku TV will suggest to you alternative streaming sources, including Netflix and Hulu.

- ”The TV can recognize the show or movie you're watching on a connected cable box, satellite box or antennas using Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) technology, and suggest additional viewing options via streaming. Those options may include the ability to watch from the beginning, watch more episodes of the same show and/or view suggestions for similar entertainment available to stream.”

Roku ACR


Targeted ads

However, Roku will also use ACR to serve a different purpose, namely targeted ads, according to statements made to CNET. Below Roku explains how the new system can benefit advertisers.

- "It helps them reach their target audience based on what they are already seeing on their screen," a representative from Roku told CNET. "For example, if an ad promoting a car brand runs in a program over the air, we have the capability to deliver an ad showing a local dealership that gives the consumer more relevant information and a call to action, including a 'click to find out more' where they can discover more about the models or can text a number to find out more about promotions."

Roku has dubbed the new feature “More Ways to Watch” and emphasizes that it is “opt-in”, meaning that you have to activate it to use it – not the other way around. You can also turn it off at any time but there is one caveat.

- “If you choose to turn off More Ways to Watch after it was first enabled, viewing information collected prior to the feature being turned off will not be deleted.”

The new Roku software (version 7.6) is currently rolling out to all HD Roku TVs and will be available on 4K Roku TVs “before June”. You can see what else is new in Roku OS 7.6 here.

Reason for concern? Well, you have paid full amount for your Roku TV, which we think is reason enough to expect an ad-free experience. But more importantly; we have heard enough about ACR system to be very wary of these tactics. Remember that ACR systems track everything you are watching, even your vacation photos or camcorder videos, and in many cases metadata or information is passed on to third parties.



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