Smart TVs track viewing habits, but Vizio television took a new turn recently when the company introduced "Smart Interactivity," which lets software running the TV keep records of the user's viewing habits and then share the data with partners that serve advertisements across media channels even when personally identifiable information is removed.
The Smart Interactivity could become enabled in more than 10 million Vizio Smart TVs already sold, per Pro Publica, which initially reported the news.
Tracking viewership data isn't new. Google has done it for years through its now defunct smart television developed with Sony. The Google TV was a closed-loop system requiring the user to sign in. It matched sign-ins on other devices owned by the user, such as a smartphone or PC.
Vizio's Smart Interactivity feature relies on the Internet Protocol (IP) address and is turned on by default, except where prohibited by law. The company does provide specific instructions on how to turn it off and on.
On Oct. 31, Vizio began using viewing data with the television's IP address and other "non-personal information" to inform third-party companies, so they can target and re-target advertisements.Vizio insists it does not combine or associate the viewing data with personal information, but having an IP address allows companies to dig a little deeper to connect the dots.
MediaPost reached out to Matthew McRae, CTO and head of marketing at Vizio, but with no response.