LG Admits Its Smart TVs Spy on Users, Promises Fix
UPDATE: Another blogger has examined his LG Smart TV and found that the device was uploading file names not just from attached external storage devices, but from all files shared across his home network.
LG Smart TVs do collect information such as channels watched and the names of locally stored media files, LG Electronics confirmed in an email to Tom's Guide today.
The transmission of this data occurs even if users try to disable the function in their TV's settings — but LG promises to correct this with a firmware update.
According to LG's statement, all LG Smart TVs automatically use owners' home Internet connections to transmit what LG calls "viewing information": the channel or app currently being watched, the time it's being watched and more.
This transmission occurs even if users have turned off an option called "collection of watching info" in their TV settings. LG uses TV owners' viewing information to sell targeted advertisements that appear on the Smart TV's home screens.
Earlier this week, British blogger and IT professional Jason Huntley, known online as DoctorBeet, documented this behavior on his LG Smart TV by doing a traffic analysis of his home router.
LG's statement confirms that Huntley's findings were accurate.
"We have verified that even when this function is turned off by the viewers, it continues to transmit viewing information, although the data is not retained by the server," an LG representative said in an email.
In other words, LG Smart TVs do gather and transmit your viewing information to LG's servers, no matter what — but if you've tried to turn off "collection of watching info" in your TV's settings, then the company doesn't store the transmitted information, LG said.
That response may do little to ease privacy concerns. However, LG added that it was working on a firmware update "for immediate rollout" that would stop such transmissions altogether if the "collection of watching info" option is disabled.
LG also confirmed Huntley's other allegation: that his LG Smart TV was transmitting the names of his personal media files, such as home videos and pictures stored on USB thumb drives connected to the TV.
The company's representative said that while a collection mechanism for media file names was, indeed, in place, actual collection never occurred. "While the file names are not stored, the transmission of such file names was part of a new feature being readied to search for data from the Internet (metadata) related to the program being watched in order to deliver a better viewing experience," the representative said.
"This feature, however, was never fully implemented, and no personal data was ever collected or retained," the statement added. "This feature will also be removed from affected LG Smart TVs with the firmware update."
LG did not say exactly when the firmware update could be expected.