Vizio Privacy Settlement Moves Forward

A federal judge has granted preliminary approval to a class-action settlement requiring smart tv manufacturer Vizio to pay $17 million for allegedly violating users' privacy.

“Considering all of the factors together ... the court preliminarily concludes that the Settlement Agreement is fair, reasonable, adequate, and likely to earn final approval,” U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton in Santa Ana, California, wrote in an order issued Friday.

The deal resolves a class-action complaint alleging that Vizio shared information about consumers with ad-tech companies and data brokers. If granted final approval, the agreement will allow 16 million Vizio owners to submit claims to a settlement fund. It's not clear how many users will submit claims, or how much they will receive, but if everyone who is eligible submits a claim, each would receive 62 cents, according to the court papers.

The agreement also requires Vizio to display onscreen notices about data collection, and to allow consumers to either accept or reject sharing data.

Staton said she was allowing the settlement to move forward for several reasons, including that the case presented unsettled issues -- including questions over whether the data allegedly shared was identifiable, and whether Vizio gave consumers sufficient notice of its practices. “Significant questions of fact persist, including whether consumers were adequately advised that their viewing data would be collected and shared and whether the information collected is sensitive,” Staton wrote. “Potential resolution of these questions against Plaintiffs presents significant risk to further litigation.”

The battle dates to 2015, when a group of consumers alleged that Vizio tracks TV viewers by default, and shares data with companies that send targeted ads to people's phones, tablets and other devices. Vizio was sued soon after ProPublica published a report about the company's data practices

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission brought a separate enforcement action against Vizio for allegedly engaging in an unfair practice by tracking consumers, and for deceiving consumers by failing to adequately explain its data practices. The company agreed to settle the charges by paying $2.2 million to the FTC and the state of New Jersey, which also prosecuted the company.

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