LG Smart TVs are still spying on users even when turning on privacy settings

Matt Hadden (Twitter, Google+)
20th Nov 2013, 4:28pm

LG is currently investigating claims that their Smart TVs are sending back details about the user's watching habits to LG even after the user has opted out of it through privacy settings.

A blog from a UK-based IT consultant detailed how his Smart TV was sending data back to LG about which channels he was watching.

If this does indeed turn out to be the case, it could mean that LG are breaking the law.

Whilst speaking to the BBC, a spokesmen for the Commissioner's Office said that they were "looking into the issue."

We have recently been made aware of a possible data breach which may involve LG Smart TVs.

We will be making enquiries into the circumstances of the alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken.

When IT consultant Jason Huntley called the manufacturer about the issue he was told that by using the TV he was accepting the terms and conditions of LG and that remaining concerns should be brought up with the retailer selling the TV.

LG has since told BBC that they are "looking into the complaint."

Customer privacy is a top priority at LG Electronics and as such, we take this issue very seriously. We are looking into reports that certain viewing information on LG Smart TVs was shared without consent.

LG offers many unique Smart TV models which differ in features and functions from one market to another, so we ask for your patience and understanding as we look into this matter.

Mr Huntley first came across the issue when he was investing as to why the TV was sending tailored adverts to his family, and whilst checking the settings he found that an option labelled "collection of watching info" was turned on by default.

Once he turned this off he found evidence which simply changed a flag in the data from "1" to "0" and still continued to send any data.

Mr Huntley said that it is a "terrible implementation."

That's a terrible implementation of the idea. It still sends the traffic but labels it saying I didn't want it to be sent.

It's actually worse, I think, than if they'd not offered the optout in the first place since it allows the user to believe nothing is being sent.

After this he attached an external hard drive using the TV's USB slot and found that the TV had sent data back to LG about each media file stored on the drive. These included names of his children.

He confirmed his theory by creating a mock "midget porn" video clip, and found yet more unencrypted traffic where it had shown up and been sent back to LG.

Mr Huntley said that he had no evidence LG were using the data, but it could still pose a security risk.

I can't prove that this was being actively logged by LG, but nevertheless it was being transmitted in the clear across the internet's backbone to wherever the servers are located.

This seems rather alarming I must say, you would think (and hope) that turning on privacy settings would enable privacy but apparently not. I wonder how many more applications and hardware use the same method?

Source: BBC News

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