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Is your TV watching you watching it?

"Platforms based on ad targeting will likely turn to data mining"

Smart TVs are tracking what viewers are watching and building individual data profiles, according to a study from Princeton University.

By building a bot that mimicked human TV viewing on a smart TV, Princeton computer scientists Arvind Narayanan and Hooman Mohajeri Moghaddam found data being collected behind the scenes, including device serial number, Wi-Fi network and advertising ID. “This gives them a more complete picture of who you are,” said Moghaddam.

The study found trackers on 89 per cent of Amazon Fire channels and 69 per cent of Roku channels, while Google’s ad service DoubleClick was found on 97 per cent of Roku channels. “Some of these are well known, such as Google, while many others are relatively obscure companies that most of us have never heard of,” said Narayanan.

“Better privacy controls would certainly help, but they are ultimately band-aids,” he continued. “The business model of targeted advertising on TVs is incompatible with privacy, and we need to confront that reality. To maximise revenue, platforms based on ad targeting will likely turn to data mining and algorithmic personalisation/persuasion to keep people glued to the screen as long as possible.”