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Vizio to pay $2.5M after allegations TVs collected viewer data

Posted at 1:10 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-07 13:10:03-05

New Jersey officials say television manufacturer Vizio and a subsidiary will pay $2.5 million to settle allegations that they surreptitiously tracked consumers’ viewing habits and sold the information to marketing companies and data brokers.

The settlement announced Monday ends parallel investigations conducted by the state and the Federal Trade Commission into the use of data-collecting technology on Vizio’s smart TVs.

According to the lawsuit, Vizio was literally watching its viewers watch TV, capturing detailed information about what people were viewing and streaming in real time, second by second. That included data from cable, broadband, set-top boxes, over-the-air broadcasts, DVDs and streaming devices, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Vizio allegedly used the data that was collected and linked it to demographics before selling the data to companies that do targeted advertising. That means users’ genders, ages and yearly income were packaged by Vizio and sold to advertising companies.

Vizio said in a statement they never paired the data with individual viewers; rather, they used the data as an “aggregate” to create “summary reports measuring viewing audiences or behaviors.”

The FTC will get $1.5 million and New Jersey will receive $1 million. The state will suspend $300,000 in civil penalties included in its settlement amount if Vizio complies with the agreement.