Vizio settles smart TV data gathering charges for $2.2M

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Feb. 7, 2017 at 1:36 PM
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Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Vizio Inc. has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle charges from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the New Jersey Attorney General's Office alleging the company collected viewing data on 11 million consumers without their knowledge or consent.

Vizio will now be forced to "prominently disclose" and to "obtain express consent" over its data collecting and sharing programs, the FTC said in a statement Monday. The company will need to delete all data collected prior March 1, 2016.

Vizio and an affiliated company were accused of collecting second-by-second data on consumers -- information such as sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value -- to sell to third parties, most of which would target the consumers with advertisements.

"According to the complaint, VIZIO touted its 'Smart Interactivity' feature that 'enables program offers and suggestions' but failed to inform consumers that the settings also enabled the collection of consumers' viewing data," the FTC said in a statement. "The complaint alleges that VIZIO's data tracking -- which occurred without viewers' informed consent -- was unfair and deceptive, in violation of the FTC Act and New Jersey consumer protection laws."

Vizio is also required to implement a comprehensive data privacy program that will be reviewed every two years.

"VIZIO is pleased to reach this resolution with the FTC and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs," VIZIO general counsel Jerry Huang said in a statement. "Today, the FTC has made clear that all smart TV makers should get people's consent before collecting and sharing television viewing information and VIZIO now is leading the way."

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