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Your TV may be watching you! Data privacy concerns in the smart era

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By Rakesh Raghuvanshi, Founder and CEO, Sekel Tech

In recent years, smart TVs have become a popular choice for many households, providing a diverse range of features and applications. With the increasing number of internet-connected devices being manufactured, users are likely to appreciate the convenience and wide range of options they offer. However, it’s important to consider the potential risks that come with smart TVs and other smart home devices.

Nevertheless, the convenience of smart TVs does come with a downside: privacy concerns. These devices can collect and transmit user data, including viewing habits and device information, to third parties. ACR technology, commonly found in smart TVs, amplifies these concerns as it tracks and utilises user viewing data for targeted advertising. The recent BoAt data breach highlights the concern over the security of personal information held by companies, causing concerns about the potential misuse of user data.

The breach of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) has reportedly exposed the private details of over 7.5 million BoAt customers, making it available for sale on the dark web. This is also a warning that the leak not only compromises sensitive user data but also poses a significant threat to the impacted users’ bank accounts and other confidential information.

Another important concern revolves around the security vulnerabilities that come with smart TVs. Smart TVs, just like any other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which can potentially grant unauthorised access to hackers. Reports indicate that even well-known brands have vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit, potentially compromising the privacy and security of millions of TVs.

It’s quite concerning that so many modern smart TVs come equipped with built-in cameras and microphones. While these features provide useful functionality like video calls and voice commands, they also present a considerable risk if the TV’s security is compromised. Hackers have the potential to gain unauthorised access to these cameras and microphones, effectively transforming the TV into a covert surveillance device.

The lack of transparency in data collection practices by smart TVs raises significant questions about user consent and control over personal information. Users are often unaware of the extent to which their viewing habits and other activities are being monitored and collected by these devices. Without clear disclosure from manufacturers about what data is being collected, how it is being used, and who it is being shared with, users are left in the dark about the full scope of surveillance taking place in their own homes.

This lack of transparency undermines users’ ability to make informed decisions about their privacy and limits their control over their personal information. As a result, there is a growing demand for stricter regulations to ensure greater transparency and accountability in the data collection practices of smart TV manufacturers and third-party entities.

To tackle these concerns and safeguard user privacy, a number of steps can be implemented. It is absolutely essential to ensure that your smart TV software is always kept up-to-date. Additionally, it is of utmost importance to set strong and unique passwords to protect your devices and accounts. Another vital precautionary measure is to exercise caution when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. It is advisable for users to deactivate any unnecessary features such as cameras and microphones when they are not being used. One must also assess the need for third-party applications, as some of them may collect and distribute personal data without obtaining proper consent.

Ultimately, smart TVs come with a range of advantages, but it’s important to be aware of the potential privacy and security concerns they bring. By staying on top of software updates, network security, and app permissions, users can fully embrace the convenience of smart TVs while keeping surveillance and unauthorised access at bay. With the rapid advancements in technology, it is crucial for manufacturers and users alike to place a strong emphasis on ensuring data privacy and security within the smart TV industry.

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