Patriot October 4, 2019 6:55 AM

Reminds one of “Fine Dining”.

That deep fear we have of machines coming to life and threatening us seems to be coming closer to reality.

Instead of watching TV, the TV is going to watch us.

Alejandro October 4, 2019 7:40 AM

The twitter conversation notes:

There is an “open-source desktop tool with a one-click install process

[that] Automatically discovers IoT devices and analyzes their network traffic…”

Alas, it only works on MacOS and Linux. Good concept, though.

So then, are the TV’s listening to our conversations, or not? Seems to me that would be hard for a TV since it creates it’s own white noise background.

The number of trackers mentioned is huge, but I suppose not surprising anymore. My script/ad/tracker apps sometimes note near a hundred of them on one site.

What can be that interesting and profitable about tracking us so intently???

emilkrik October 4, 2019 7:40 AM

There was a court case regarding Vizio TVs traking users. They ended up paying $30-something dollars for each member of the ‘class’ (it was a class-action lawsuit). And after that they have probably continued with the same data collection habits since then.

There the ARS Technica article Vizio smart TVs tracked viewers around the clock without consent that provided some info about the tracking done by Vizio:

Through the ACR software, Vizio’s televisions transmit information about what a consumer is watching on a second-by-second basis.

Defendants’ ACR software captures information about a selection of pixels on the screen and sends that data to Vizio servers, where it is uniquely matched to a database of publicly available television, movie, and commercial content.

Defendants collect viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, external streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Defendants have stated that the ACR software captures up to 100 billion data points each day from more than 10 million VIZIO televisions. Defendants store this data indefinitely.

Defendants’ ACR software also periodically collects other information about the television, including IP address, wired and wireless MAC addresses, WiFi signal strength, nearby WiFi access points, and other items.

K.S. October 4, 2019 8:50 AM

Why is this legal? Where are consumer protections? In any other industry this would be fraud and people in charge would at least have to hire expensive lawyers and shield assets from lawsuits. Imagine if your accountant colluded with your credit card company to sell your financial profile information? This is exactly like that, only on the internet, but for them it was just Tuesday.

tz October 4, 2019 10:54 AM

The semi-alarming thing is that Pi-Hole wasn’t effective (or maybe we need better block lists; I use OpenWRT with a hosts file and try to add it to any Android device after rooting it).

Part of the problem may be continually rotating XXX.tracker.whatever to different things so you would need a smart DNS filter.

Smarty Pants October 4, 2019 11:16 AM

The golden privacy rule is to not purchase or (at the very least) connect a smart device to the Internet.

For smart TVs only connect power, OTA coaxial and HDMI. Never accept the terms of service.

Here are my solutions:
Plug up and microphone with a drop of clear glue.

I run an isolated Ethernet cable from my ISP router to an Apple TV streamer. Prime and Netflex are applications with no advertising. Netflix encrypts to prevent the ISP from eavesdropping.
This setup has no advertising and minimal tracking along with the best audio and video quality.

Movies not available here are sourced from the library or Redbox. Most UHD disks are sourced from 2K masters are best avoided. Kodi 19/LibELEC streamers default to high levels of performance and privacy [1].

Amazon kids tablets (with some excellent learning and games applications) are isolated using DD-WRT virtual networks.

I use a dedicated PC running LinHES PDVR with NO Internet connection, just an RF coaxial cable.

This household configuration has it all with high levels of privacy and entertainment with minimal advertising. However it does take time and expertize.

The only issue not easily solvable is the brainwashing and herd mentality of social media. For the next upgrade I’ll to pay to wean members off Android to Apple.

[1] The smarter the connected TV the dumber the owner. I’ve predetermined not be a guest in this type of home, one with continuous facial and voice scanning. Sadly even if family…

Alyer Babtu October 4, 2019 11:20 AM

Not so smart TVs.

It is elementary that economic freedom and political freedom are inextricably linked. These systems are justified to their makers on the grounds of (their) economic freedom, but to everyone at large the underlying logic is slavery. So it follows that they will end with a loss of economic vitality and freedom also.

Clive Robinson October 4, 2019 11:23 AM

@ Patriot,

Instead of watching TV, the TV is going to watch us.

We have known this was going to happen for the better part of seven decades.

I’ve actually walked past and been in the building where the thought was put into the written word. Back then it was a book shop now it’s a pizza takeaway, you will find it at the bottom of Pond Street at the base of Hampsted Hill in London. Back in 1948 George Orwell wrote the words that described a surveillance state where the equivalent of a TV for propagander, also spyed on every person in the house. In what transpires as a lack of imagination he simply reversed the last two digits of the year to give “1984”. Since he wrote it much has not only come to be, but people do not even know the origin of terms like “Spin Doctor”, “New speak”, “Room 101” etc, the proxy wars for propaganda and to enforce surf like conditions on the population by a self appointed elite, who lead lifestyles that would be unsupportable in any other way but a totalitarian police state of authoritarian following guard labour, for whom there can be no sin they can commit if it is in the name of the party…

We were warned we could have easily stopped it way back then, but with each passing year it’s inevitability became more certain, it’s inertia increasingly greater. Now we can not stop it, it’s here to stay, because way to many think the panoptican that is a guilded cage is to desirable to live in…

Hopefully those that form the comming generations will wise up and eschew the trappings of hedonism that has led us into the prison their forefathers, us have built for them.

Yes, I know it’s not rainbows, unicorns and castles in the clouds, but those are trappings of a life that not only does not exist, it can not exist. Reality is both hard and harsh, we face it with intelligence and fortitude, or perish in iniquity.

Impossibly Stupid October 4, 2019 12:14 PM


So then, are the TV’s listening to our conversations, or not? Seems to me that would be hard for a TV since it creates it’s own white noise background.

Then you don’t know much about noise cancellation or even early/analog audio encryption. It’s a trivial matter to subtract out a known signal to recover a “clean” conversation. At one point I was considering writing a mobile app based on the same concept for use when other forms of security weren’t available/allowed.

What can be that interesting and profitable about tracking us so intently???

You don’t know what kind of fish you’ll catch until you drop your line in the water and wait. It’s the same reason spam/botnets still exist: it’s cheap to do and, even if there’s no direct way to profit from it, you can still sell it as a service to those who are foolish enough to think that they can use it properly.

Bill Spight October 4, 2019 12:52 PM

BTW, the original title of “1984” was “1948”, the year it was published. The publisher required a year in the distant future.

Mike October 4, 2019 6:14 PM

About a decade ago, when the first “smart TVs” started showing up, we needed a new viewing solution. Looked at TVs, big monitors and projectors.

Got a projector. 75 inches just seems tiny now compared to our 120 inch screen.

Projectors aren’t for everyone or every room, but they do work for lots of places where room brightness can be controlled, if even slightly.

Best of all, no worries about the screen spying at all.

Clive Robinson October 4, 2019 6:15 PM

@ Anders,


Onecof the problems with George Orwell’s short life is that he did not have much stability in it.

He was an ill man repeatedly diagnosed (incorrectly) with pneumonia later to have it correctly diagnosed as tuberculosis which eventually killed him.

Unlike with other authors tracking down what he did when and where has been difficult. University College London has about the largest collection of his papers and recorded recolections from people who new him personally.

He lived and worked part time at “Booklover’s Corner” in Hampsted in 1934 to 35, whilst there he met Eileen O’Shaughnessy, who he married (she unfortunatly died under anesthetic shortly after they adopted a baby boy). Whilst living their “A Clergyman’s Daughter” was published in March 1935 and “Burmese Days” in June 1935. However by that time he was already working on notes and ideas for other articles and books amongst which was the early ideas of 1984. What few remember these days is that the latest much talked of technology in London and much of Britain in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s was “Television” John Logie-Baird was giving lots of well publicised demonstrations. Few these days remember just how reveloutionary new technology could be when the hight of sophistication was a two or three valve (tube) radio receiver capable of hearing European Broadcast.

Further in technical articles of the time people were given the impression that two way images across Post Office telephone lines was more than possible when one of Baird’s demonstrations went the length of England across Post Office cables. Much like the early days of the Internet people were making wild speculations about this new technology.

Orwell moved down to Islington and eventually got bombed out by a V1 flying bomb when working for the BBC that gave him the ideas for Newspeak and double think. By which time he was by todays standards a seriously ill man with some very bad habits.

Not that the probable misdiagnosis of his condition would have made any difference pre WWII, whilst there were what we now know to be anti-biotics used in “folk medicine” (see French farmers and Roquefort cheese[1], and the use of mineral sulphates[2] in aqueous clay solutions). There was no medically known cure for either pneumonia or tuberculosis, in Britain at the time, both killed many many people. A basic “kill or cure” policy was used (see treatments given in Santorums at the time).


[2] Iron pyrite (fools gold) has been associated in the reduction of bacteria. Pyrites are found in “Antibacterial Clay” that when used correctly have antibacterial effects in wound dressings and poltices,

Samuel Johnson October 4, 2019 9:33 PM

Clive, and anyone interested, search for reviews of a new book – – The Ministry of Truth: the biography of George Orwell’s 1984, by Dorian Lynskey. I haven’t gotten to it yet but plan to shortly.

Think October 5, 2019 9:06 AM


I remember that case. Unless you are a movie character in the matrix – it’s no fun to sit down and watch encrypted video content for relaxation thus making Vizio’s method of information extraction about you more difficult.

Modern set top boxes know when they are being watched and can uniquely identify the watcher and their actions while associating that with what you watch.

Think about what hotel control boxes can see and collect about you.

The projector idea is the best, ‘stare at the wall’. It won’t stare back.

Projectors Industry Improvements Group October 5, 2019 11:47 AM

We at PIIG appreciate several commenters here pointing out the omission of surveillance technology in our products. We will work relentlessly to remedy this gap.

Jonathan Wilson October 5, 2019 3:36 PM

Thankfully my TV is a 32″ Samsung with no smart anything at all. It has no camera, no microphone, no Ethernet, no WiFi, no USB, no nothing.
Connected to it I have a cheap generic DVD player for watching my collection of DVDs (although due to various reasons these days I tend to watch my DVDs on the computer via VLC) and an old Topfield DVR which also has no microphone, no camera, no WiFi and no streaming or internet stuff of any kind. It has Ethernet (which is not connected) but no way of actually spying on me.

Puerta a Puerta February 20, 2020 7:40 AM

In general, the more accessible the location and the destination the more affordable the transport conversely out of the way regions will be far more costly to transport your vehicle to.

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