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Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns

Dems push FTC to investigate smart TVs over privacy concerns
© Keren Carrion

Two Democratic senators are pushing the Federal Trade Commission to probe smart TVs over concerns about data privacy.

Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyElection Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Senate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Dems damp down hopes for climate change agenda MORE (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) expressed concern that the technology can be tracking user behavior without a consumer knowing, in a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons.

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“Regrettably, smart TV users may not be aware of the extent to which their televisions are collecting sensitive information about their viewing habits,” Markey and Blumenthal wrote. “Televisions have entered a new era, but that does not mean that users’ sensitive information no longer deserves protection.”

The senators cited a New York Times report detailing the practices of San Francisco–based software company Samba TV, which said it had collected viewing data from more than 13 million smart TVs.

Markey and Blumenthal cautioned that Samba’s opt-in process “does not clearly convey how much sensitive information about a user will be collected or whether the data will be used for targeted advertisements across different devices.”

The senators' letter underscores how far-reaching data collection can be.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the British research firm hired by the Trump campaign improperly obtained data on 87 million Facebook users, put a spotlight on how social media user data can be abused.

While that was the most high-profile case, data privacy matters can extend to any area where consumers use technology and companies can observe and analyze their behavior.