VIZIO TV Settles Charges Of Tracking Viewers’ Data

In last month’s case of FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION et al v. VIZIO, INC. et al, the FTC obtained a stipulated (agreed) settlement with a permanent injunction against, and payment of over $2 million from, Vizio, which is one of the largest television manufacturers in the world.

The FTC alleged Vizio acquired from the video displayed on monitors and TV’s from viewers’ cable, broadband, DVD, over-the-air broadcasts, streaming devices, etc. very specific demographic information, and  second-by-second users’ viewing habits along with the viewers’ age, sex, marital status, size and income of the household, level of education, whether viewer’s owned their home and its value.  In addition, the FTC asserted Vizio sold the data to others, who used it for target advertising to consumers using other devices.

On February 6, 2017, a Stipulated Order for a Permanent Injunction and Monetary Judgment was filed with the United States District Court. Although Vizio denied any liability,  they were charged with participating in deceptive, unfair and unconscionable practices, misrepresentations, false promises, and omitting material facts in collecting and sharing viewers’ data while using the Smart Interactivity feature in over 10 million Vizio TV’s they sold. These are so called “smart” televisions and monitors that can connect to the internet.

Vizio agreed to disclose and obtain consent for the above data collection and sharing practices; and is prohibited from making false statements and misrepresenting the privacy, security &/or confidentiality of the viewers’ information they collect.

It is noteworthy, there presently is a consumer  Class Action lawsuit filed and pending against Vizio involving this subject matter.

Sadly, our respective rights to privacy and individual expectations of being free from daily intrusion from others, whether government, business, and/or others, are being compromised as we seek to enjoy the continuing benefits of the growing number and expanding scope of our electronic devices.

With this link, consumer information published by the FTC, one can obtain varied educational and enlightening topics and subject matter.

CAUTION: You May Get An Email, Text or Pop Up And It May Not Be Authentic !!

One of the newer scams is pop ups; these are windows that automatically appear on your cell phone screen, desktop monitor, laptop, tablet or notepad. Originally they were intended and, therefore, designed as a form of online advertising to attract business to a website. More recently, some have become a tool to not only capture the email addresses on your device, but some may also be fraudulent, using 1000’s of popular site names.

Be extremely cautious before you do anything on your device, such as replying to an email, &/or acting on a text message, or a pop up.

Sadly, they can easily copy genuine logos and addresses.  +The following are examples merely listed to remind each of us these are elusive criminals preying on billions of people and businesses on a daily basis +using all too familiar and very common genuine business names like: Microsoft, Intel, Norton’s, Facebook, iTunes, HP, Epson, Apple, Yahoo, Google, AT&T, Gmail, AOL,  National, Regional or Local Banks, Maps, Media Player, Real Player, Music, Weather, Flashlights, Apps, Texts, a nd many other popular applications that are used by hundreds of billions of individuals, including each of us.

It is not that you have yet to see any of these scams, but when this will occur.

Merely shutting down your device might not be a solution, as it might also be the trigger for them to gain access, if not already!!

They look genuine and are intended for you to simply:

push “ok” 

or

click ” here

or

update now

or to simply

reply

and your Computer, Cell phone, Tablet &/or Laptop is open to them to see everything, including your usernames, passwords, and anything you want to be private; and, then face the huge problem of getting them off, if they have not also “ locked your device ” so you cannot access it without calling or texting a number to pay a ransom.

It has been suggested that the alternative is to go online and find the “actual” and “genuine” business, then search to see if they have and use a genuine app, and/or call and speak to their customer service to inquire if there is a link to their app and the online page for you to click. Remember, to be extra cautious and really certain the email, text message, popup and app is authentic before you click, update, open or reply.

Some cyber specialists also recommend we do not provide our identification information to a retailer; nor to anyone when surfing the internet. Take the same precautions whether you have contacted a business to make a purchase or sought a service through the internet This cautionary note is also important when providing your private information to anyone who has contacted you, whether in person, via text, email or on the telephone.

It is a sad commentary that we have to be guarded when we get an email, text message, see a pop up or we are asked to update a particular software on any of our devices. Now we may even need to have a concern, for example, when we get a call from a charitable organization asking us to make a contribution; here as well, we may want to ascertain if they are the authentic entity who they say they are, and/or do not adequately protect the credit card information you decide to give to them. Some individuals do not respond at all; others have chosen to use a money order or check, and send it through the U.S. Postal Service.

Do You Know Whether You Are Using Fake Apps (Applications)?

Almost everyone uses a cell phone today. And, the number using a smart phone and/or any other mobile device, such as a tablet, is increasing daily.  We know that cell phones can be used to send instant text messages, which for many are used more frequently than communicating in person, on the telephone or sending an email. And, it has been reported that some individuals now spend more than four (4) hours or more a day using mobile devices. With the added time spent surfing the internet on all devices, using (icons on a desktop or) applications on a mobile device has become increasingly advantageous and customary for many of us.

Applications are more commonly referred to as “apps.” At this point there are approximately  4 million apps for Apple and Android cell phones.  Using apps save a lot of time, do not require entering information on a search bar, and then selecting from a host of different entries or listings. As  result, many consider apps to have become priceless (not just the free ones, but even those that come with a fixed price at the beginning and/or even a monthly fee).

Some apps are simply a convenient way to reach a business, and for many apps that are free there often are lots of advertisements that can be a nuisance. But, some apps bring with their use both spam and viruses, while others can cause a great deal of harm, for example when a culprit uses their fake app to obtain all of our confidential information stored on our device.  Yes, there are a growing number of apps every day that are fake & not genuine. The average individual would not ordinarily be able to discern whether an app is legitimate because they use the exact logo, same address and everything including the order form that makes them look genuine, except the telephone number and email address with which you are using to communicate.

Even worse once you find an object on the internet using a counterfeit or fake app (and, not knowing it is not authentic) to order and make a purchase,  you will never get the product, but your credit card will be charged. Then, all of your identification information will have been gathered, and before you know it you will have to cancel your credit card because it has become an object of identity theft of hundreds and potentially thousands of dollars. You may be naive to what has taken place and innocently give your address, your driver’s license number, and/or Social Security number (even just the last four digits). The problems just begin, having to report the suspicious and illegal activity, and cancel your credit card, which can ruin your credit.  In addition, some or all of your private and confidential information stored on your device, however, may also be hacked and open to countless others.

An alternative may be to go online and find the “actual” business, then search to see if they have an app, and/or call and speak to their customer service to inquire if there is a link to their app and the online page for you to click. But, next time be cautious and  really certain the app is genuine before you provide your identification information to a retailer or anyone when surfing the internet. This cautionary note is also relevant when providing information to anyone with whom you are speaking, whether in person or on the telephone; and, take the same precautions whether you have contacted a business to make a purchase or sought a service through the internet.