Is Your Set-Top Box Telling Advertisers What You Watch?

by David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times

Remote-control_cc_320x190Your TV’s set-top box is ratting you out to advertisers. At least that’s the contention of consumer groups that have filed complaints with federal authorities demanding a crackdown on overzealous data collection.

The complaints to the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission say pay-TV companies fail to disclose to customers the extent of their data collection or the ways people’s viewing habits will be used for marketing purposes.

“They’re hiding the ball,” said Dallas Harris, a policy fellow with the advocacy group Public Knowledge who co-wrote the complaints. “They say in their privacy policies that they may collect data on you and theymay use it for marketing. They know that’s what they’re doing. So there’s a big disconnect between what they say and what’s actually happening.”

Most consumers know they’ve traded privacy for convenience as information technology plays an ever-larger role in daily activities. From websites visited to goods purchased, almost every move people make these days is watched, recorded and frequently shared by businesses.

Still, Harris said, many people probably think the digital surveillance ends when they settle on the couch to watch TV in the privacy of their home. They don’t realize, she said, that they’re being spied on by their set-top boxes.

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