How to Turn Off Smart TV Snooping Features

A technology called automatic content recognition, or ACR, attempts to identify every show you play—including those you get via cable, over-the-air broadcasts, streaming services, and even DVDs and Blu-ray discs. The data is transmitted to the TV maker, one of its business partners, or both.

ACR helps the TV recommend other shows you might want to watch. But the data can also used for targeting ads to you and your family, and for other marketing purposes. You can’t easily review or delete this data later.

We first reported on ACR in 2015. The technology was in the news in 2017 when Vizio got in trouble with federal and state regulators for collecting such data without users’ knowledge or consent. The company eventually paid $2.2 million to settle cases with the Federal Trade Commission and the state of New Jersey. This summer a federal court approved a $17 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit stemming from Vizio's data collection.

Companies need your permission before collecting viewing data. You have the opportunity to decline as you set up a new TV, but you'll need to read each screen carefully; you can't just click “okay” to all the privacy policies and user agreements.

It can be even trickier if you’ve already been using the TV and now want to turn off ACR. The settings are often hard to find. Below are instructions for the major smart TV platforms, covering sets from LG, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio; Roku sets from brands such as Hisense and TCL; and Amazon Fire TV Edition sets from Toshiba and Insignia.

Even if you turn off ACR, your smart TV will continue to collect information for its manufacturer, possibly including your location, what apps you open, and more. The only way to prevent that is to avoid connecting to the internet, which means ceasing to use it as a smart TV.

Here, Consumer Reports shows you how to turn off data collection for the following TVs: Amazon Fire TV Edition, LG, Roku, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio.

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