You know the future has arrived when TVs start watching you back.
The Federal Trade Commission and the New Jersey Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Vizio, a smart TV company, for collecting and selling viewing data of its users without permission. Essentially, Vizio’s internet-connected TVs were gathering information about its customers that went far beyond what shows they were watching.
They were both derivations of unfair trade practices, which just basically means that consumers were lied to or there were misrepresentations along the way. But as one commissioner at the FTC put it, what's the concrete injury here?
Gardner refers to commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen who was recently sworn in by President Trump as acting chair of the Federal Trade Commission. Gardener noted that in a statement she published, it was unclear what actions the FTC would take to determine whether the data collected by Vizio constitutes "substantial injury." Gardner says:
There are a lot of theoretical harms but there's no evidence so far that companies are tracking viewerships in this matter. It's just out there. The question is, should the government do anything about it?
On Monday, the FTC announced it had reached a settlement for more than $2 million with Vizio. But the Vizio case may be just one example of how so-called smart technology can start to emulate Big Brother from George Orwell’s “1984."