LG Smart TV “spying” on viewing habits

LG Smart televisions are able to log viewing information in order to serve targeted ads to its customers, according to new research.

UK-based IT consultant Jason Huntley discovered that his new LG Smart TV was targeting ads at him on the Smart landing screen. On his blog he detailed his own investigation into the data collection.

"There is an option in the system settings called 'Collection of watching info' which is set ON by default," he wrote. "I decided to do some traffic analysis to see what was being sent. It turns out that viewing information appears to be being sent regardless of whether this option is set to 'on' or 'off'."

It appears from Huntley's research that the Smart TV is able to recognise when a channel is changed and determine what the viewer is watching. This data is then sent unencrypted to LG's servers. Beyond television viewing habits, Huntley also discovered that filenames from an external hard drive attached to the set were also being sent to LG.

In a corporate video directed at potential advertisers, LG claimed: "LG Smart Ad analyses user's favourite programs, online behaviour, search keywords and other information to offer relevant ads to target audiences." The video has since been removed from LG's website.

When Huntley approached LG to find out about data collection, customer profiling, and mandatory advertising on products that they had already paid for, LG told him that he had agreed to the terms and conditions and that no comment could be given.

"The advice we have been given is that unfortunately as you accepted the Terms and Conditions on your TV your concerns would be best directed to the retailer," LG told Huntley.

However, when the BBC contacted LG for comment earlier today, LG seemed to change its response abruptly, claiming that they were investigating the matter.

"Customer privacy is a top priority at LG Electronics and as such, we take this issue very seriously," said a spokesman. "We are looking into reports that certain viewing information on LG Smart TVs was shared without consent."

If Huntley's research proves accurate, it could mean that LG have been breaking the law. In the meantime, Huntley has sought his own solution to such monitoring - compiling a list of internet domains on his blog that "you can block to stop spying and advertising on TVs that we, as customers have actually paid for".