Just got a new TV or streamer? You need to change these privacy settings
Smart TVs and streamers from Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung and more all bury their privacy settings. Take control of yours.
Eli BlumenthalSenior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
Expertise5G, mobile networks, wireless carriers, phones, tablets, streaming devices, streaming platforms, mobile and console gaming,
So you just got a new smart TV, or maybe a
streamer as a holiday gift (maybe from yourself, but who's counting?). Congrats! Whether it was a discounted doorbuster or a fancy new OLED, now is a great time to enjoy your big screen.
One thing you might want to consider about any new TV, just like a phone or
device, is how it handles your privacy. In many ways, the content you watch on the big screen is watching you back. While most modern TVs aren't tracking you with physical cameras, their smart TV software platforms are often following what you're doing from behind the scenes.
and Roku to
, all major smart platforms and
are capturing your viewing data. Software and hardware makers use it to "improve" the products they offer, for example by tailoring show recommendations and the ads they show you. While potentially frustrating, the ability to show ads helps in keeping costs down when buying a new TV or
One tool for tracking is called Automatic Content Recognition, which is software that recognizes the images on your TV. ACR works regardless of whether the images come through an app or an
port like a cable box, Xbox or PlayStation. The good news is that you can turn it off.
To find out how, we checked out all of the major TV makers' 2019 smart TV systems as well as dedicated streamers from Amazon, Roku and Nvidia (which uses
). Here's what we found and what you can do about it. Just click the link below to jump to your device.
What TV makes it easiest to control your privacy? Roku
Of all of the TVs and streamers we looked at, Roku makes it easiest to opt out of viewing data collection. The menus use plain English to explain their terms of service and the privacy controls are easy to find: There's a dedicated "Privacy" section in the Settings menu that consists of three simple boxes.
The worst operator in our tests was Vizio. Its privacy controls were so complicated that in our initial hunt for the setting we had to reset our TV to factory settings to make sure that the right things were unchecked.
Those two represent the extremes among the systems we tested. Below you'll find them all along with step-by-step instructions for taking control of your data.