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Google patches ads into Android TV home screens without warning

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‘The purpose is to help you discover new apps and contents for your TV’

Image: Sony

Users of multiple popular Android TV devices have discovered that ads are appearing on their home screens. XDA-Developers reports that the new “Sponsored” channel has been spotted on Sony smart TVs, Xiaomi’s Mi Box 3, and the Nvidia Shield TV.

The ads started appearing with a recent update to the Android TV operating system, and users have not reported being warned about them ahead of time. One Reddit thread noted that the ads had appeared on a Sony 900F, which has a starting price of $999.99.

In a statement given to XDA-Developers, a spokesperson from Google said that the ads were part of a “pilot program,” adding, “Android TV is committed to optimizing and personalizing the entertainment experience at home.”

A Sony support page, discovered by Ars Technica, placed the blame for the ads firmly in Google’s hands, saying, “the purpose [of the sponsored channel] is to help you discover new apps and contents for your TV.” It added that the only way to disable the channel is to create a Restricted Profile in the TV that’s filled with the apps you actually want to use.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be many other options to get rid of the ads. Users on Reddit have reported that even if they attempt to disable “Android TV Core Services,” turn off auto-updates, and uninstall the latest update, the ads still seem to return after they restart their TVs.

Google isn’t the only company that has put ads on smart TVs. Samsung got caught doing something similar back in 2016, and just last month, Vizio announced that it is developing a new standard to allow smart TVs to show targeted ads. Previously, the manufacturer was hit with a $2.2 million fine back in 2017 for turning tracking on by default across millions of its TVs without its customers’ consent.