Are TV’s doing the watching?

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The shows and movies you watch on your television are probably being recorded and sent back to a server. That was the case if you own a Vizio television.

That fact is the reason the company settled a lawsuit recently. What was the company doing with that information? It was selling it to advertisers.

As part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Vizio will now dish out more than $2 million to the FTC and the state of New Jersey. Currently, it’s unknown whether owners of Vizio sets will receive a portion of that money, or if the federal agency and the state of New Jersey will keep it all.

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So, what information was collected by these televisions? The FTC says in addition to the shows, movies, and streamed content, the Internet protocol address of the device was recorded. While the FTC claimed in a blog post that the IP address could be used to further identify the occupants of a household, Vizio denied that claim in a response to news websites Engadget, CNET and USA Today, but did not deny it had been collecting the viewing habits.

I have always wondered how television networks gathered viewership numbers.

According to an article on Forbes, viewership is primarily determined by Neilsen, a company that recruits a percentage of the population to submit their viewing habits through devices called black boxes. Those people are meant to represent the entire population, with some degree of accuracy. These people are also aware they are submitting this information and therefore compensated.

I appears as though Vizio stepped up that process and cut out the middle man. Because of this view, I feel the settlement should go to the owners of affected Vizio sets, not federal and state agencies.

If any television company wants to pay their customers for information pertaining to viewing habits, I imagine they could not only find a lot of willing participants, but save some money in legal expenses as well.