Your TV is spying on you but you can stop it

Fun fact: The first Compaq Portable computer shipped in 1983 and cost more than $8,400 in today’s dollars. Wow, times have changed.

Still, your computer is a significant investment, and you want it to perform well for many years.

You don’t have to deal with the same problems with your TV, but one common question I get is the best way to wipe away fingerprints and dust.

Unfortunately, you have to think about tracking on your TV just like on a computer or phone. Read on to find out how you welcomed a spy into your living room – and what you can do about it.

Man watching TV
Your TV may be spying on you, here’s how you can stop it.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Why are televisions so cheap?

Remember the days when a large flat screen TV was a total luxury?

Now, TVs come with lots of bells, whistles and smart features, and you can buy top-of-the-line models for a fraction of the price. what gives

It’s all about data. You already know that your personal information is worth a lot of money. One way to stop greedy data brokers is to remove you from their people search sites.

Think about everything your TV knows about you and your family. That data accounts for the lower prices of new TVs. Over time, these data farms get more money back than they earned from those sets.

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Are you shopping for a TV? There are a lot of buzzwords and marketing terms that will entice you to spend more. Don’t fall for it.

Is it worth it? it depends

It’s hard to do much in the digital world without tracking, tracking, or monetizing it in some way. Some are working hard to find ways around that, paying for extra privacy or using options that focus on users rather than data mining.

Others throw up their hands and say, this is the price we pay for free and cheap services, the devices we rely on to run our lives.

I fall somewhere in the middle. Yes, there’s a lot of tracking and data collection you’ll have to swallow if you want to use anything from a smart assistant to your inbox.

But you don’t have to blindly endorse every collection method. As long as you’re willing to dive into your device’s settings, there’s a lot you can do to take back your privacy.

When it comes to your TV, this is the place to start.

Stop your TV from spying

Many smart TVs are equipped with cameras that most people don’t even know are there. There’s not much you can do to void the device’s warranty and remove it yourself. You can cover it up, but who needs electrical tape on their TV screen?

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Start with your smart TV’s tracking features – especially Automatic Content Recognition (ACR).

What is ACR and how do you turn it off? It’s a visual recognition feature that can recognize every ad, TV show or movie you play on your TV. This includes streaming boxes, cable/air TV, and even DVD and Blu-Ray players.

This data is collected and used for marketing and targeted advertising purposes. If this all sounds too scary, there are ways to turn it off. The exact methods depend on the brand of your TV.


On older Vizio TV sets that use Vizio Internet Apps (VIA), go to TV system Next: Reset & Admin > Smart interactivity > off.

On Vizio smart TVs that use the latest SmartCast system, go to system > Reset & Admin > View data > Toggle it off.


On new Samsung sets, go to settings > support > Scroll down Terms and policies. Here you can turn off View information services (Samsung’s ACR technology), Internet-based advertising (for personalized ad tracking) and voice recognition services.

On older Samsung Smart TVs, go to TV Smart Hub menu > settings > support > Search Terms and policies > later disable SyncPlus and Marketing. You can disable voice recognition services in this section as well.

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Note that disabling Voice Recognition services on your Samsung TV will disable its voice commands.


LG’s ACR technology is baked into its latest WebOS-powered smart TVs called LivePlus. To disable this, go to settings > All settings > Scroll down General > Scroll down to Settings LivePlus > Toggle it off.

To limit other types of data collection on your LG Smart TV, return to settings > All settings > Scroll down General > About this TV > User Agreements > Toggle personalized ads off.

Another step to keep your habits private

If you’re looking to minimize the impact of big data on your viewing experience, here are some more tips to try.

  • Adjust your privacy settings to limit the data your device sends back to the manufacturer.
  • Turn off voice control. This can stop your TV from analyzing conversations to listen for wake words or commands.
  • Avoid free apps and channels. These are usually supported by a mix of advertising and data collection.
  • Also consider what your streaming services and devices are tracking.

The internet is a dangerous place. I can help you protect yourself from hackers and scammers. Sign up for my free daily tech newsletter.


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