Smart TV that Won’t Listen

Monday, November 25, 2013 @ 01:11 PM gHale

LG Smart TVs are able to collect information on what users are watching in order to determine what kind of advertisements to serve as part of the LG Smart Ad service, a researcher said.

In a video that presents the advertisement service, LG tells potential customers their ads will display based on users’ favorite programs, search keywords, online behavior and other information.

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There is a setting called “Collection of watching info which is further down in the options menu, said the UK-based researcher who goes by the online name of DoctorBeet. The service is on by default.

However, even if the feature ends up disabled, information from the LG Smart TV still sends back to LG’s servers.

The researcher found a unique device ID and the name of the channel users are watching transmits in an unencrypted form every time they change the channel.

The names of the files stored on external USB drives also transmit. The URL the data posts to doesn’t exist, but the researcher said LG could implement the feature at any time, allowing them to collect detailed information on the media files stored on external devices.

LG said in a statement:

“At LG, we are always aiming to improve our Smart TV experience. Recently, it has been brought to our attention that there is an issue related to viewing information allegedly being gathered without consent. Our customers’ privacy is a very important part of the Smart TV experience so we began an immediate investigation into these claims. Here’s what we found:

“Information such as channel, TV platform, broadcast source, etc. that is collected by certain LG Smart TVs is not personal but viewing information. This information is collected as part of the Smart TV platform to deliver more relevant advertisements and to offer recommendations to viewers based on what other LG Smart TV owners are watching. 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. A firmware update is being prepared for immediate rollout that will correct this problem on all affected LG Smart TVs so when this feature is disabled, no data will be transmitted.

“It has also been reported that the names of media files stored on external drives such as USB flash devices are being collected by LG Smart TVs. 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. This feature, however, was never fully implemented and no personal data was ever collected or retained. This feature will also be removed from affected LG Smart TVs with the firmware update.”

For an immediate fix until the updates are available, users can remove ads and prevent the data collection process by blocking the following domains in their router: ad.lgappstv.com, yumenetworks.com, smartclip.net, smartclip.com, llnwd.net, smartshare.lgtvsdp.com and ibis.lgappstv.com.

In the meantime, since disabling the “Collection of watching info” feature doesn’t work, users can remove ads and prevent the data collection process by blocking the following domains in their router: ad.lgappstv.com, yumenetworks.com, smartclip.net, smartclip.com, llnwd.net, smartshare.lgtvsdp.com and ibis.lgappstv.com.



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