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LG admits its Smart TVs were ignoring privacy settings, promises firmware update to fix it

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Verizon FiOS TV DVR Remote (STOCK)
Verizon FiOS TV DVR Remote (STOCK)

After an LG Smart TV owner discovered that his television was surreptitiously gathering information about him without his permission, the company has admitted that its opt-out system wasn't doing what it promised. "Recently, it has been brought to our attention that there is an issue related to viewing information allegedly being gathered without consent," said the company in a statement. Normally, this is is collected with the user's implicit consent; LG promises it is "not personal" and used only for targeted ads and recommendations. But it's now verified that "even when this function is turned off by the viewers, it continues to transmit viewing information, although the data is not retained by the server."

The opt-out option isn't particularly prominent, but the problem with it was discovered when UK developer "DoctorBeet" found that even though he'd tried to turn off collection, his TV still passed unencrypted data about which channels he was watching back to a server. Beyond that, it also appeared to periodically check his attached USB drive and collect the names of files on it, something that's not described as part of LG's targeted ad system. LG confirmed this report as well: "While the file names are not stored, the transmission of such file names was part of a new feature being readied to search for data from the internet (metadata) related to the program being watched in order to deliver a better viewing experience," it says. "This feature, however, was never fully implemented and no personal data was ever collected or retained." It's not known how long this feature has been around, but DoctorBeet corroborated LG's claim that those names weren't sent to an active server.

LG says that it "regrets any concerns these reports may have caused and will continue to strive to meet the expectations of all our customers and the public." Smart TV owners, meanwhile, should expect an expedited firmware update that will both make the TVs honor opt-out agreements and remove the half-implemented file-scanning system.