LG smart TVs send viewing habits, filenames back to manufacturer

LG smart TVs send viewing habits, filenames back to manufacturer

Summary: Businesses may want to think twice before plugging that USB device into the boardroom smart TV as a UK blogger has found that his TV has been sending back the names of files on his devices.

TOPICS: Security, Privacy

A UK blogger, known only as DoctorBeet, has discovered that his LG Smart TV has been sending his viewing habits back to the manufacturer.

The TVs have a "Smart Ad" feature which LG claims to analyse user behaviour to help direct advertisements to more interested customers. An option exists in the TV settings to turn off this collection, however DoctorBeet notes that it does nothing.

After inspecting the outgoing traffic from his smart TV, DoctorBeet noticed that a unique device ID, along with the TV channel name was being transmitted each time he changed channels.

"This information appears to be sent back unencrypted and in the clear to LG every time you change channel, even if you have gone to the trouble of changing the setting above to switch collection of viewing information off."

However, when external USB storage is connected to the smart TV, filenames of media contained on the external devices were sometimes sent back to LG's servers, according to the blogger.

The URL that the information is sent to returns a HTTP 404 error response, indicating that there is no resource available to serve the request. That does not necessarily mean that the information is not being logged however. Webserver logs frequently capture information about HTTP requests, although how these logs are used is impossible to know without access to LG's servers.

LG Australia head of public relations Phillip Anderson said the company is aware of the issue.

"LG Australia acknowledges the issues that have been identified in the UK. We take the claims very seriously and are currently investigating the situation at a local level," he said in a statement.

DoctorBeet's own letter to LG Electronics UK was met by a dismissive email which stated that as he had accepted the terms and conditions on his TV, his concerns should instead directed towards the retailer from which he purchased the TV.

In the meantime, DoctorBeet has compiled a short list of domains that the smart TV accesses for displaying advertising materials and sending information. These domains can be blocked at the network level.

Topics: Security, Privacy

Michael Lee

About Michael Lee

A Sydney, Australia-based journalist, Michael Lee covers a gamut of news in the technology space including information security, state Government initiatives, and local startups.

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  • Shocking

    I almost bought one of these LG Smart TVs. I liked the look of them because they have Miracast, that can project videos on your phone onto the TV screen.

    I was just about to put my money down on one, when I heard about this. I take privacy seriously, and if it's true that LG has been snooping on people's TV habits, then I won't be buying one.
  • This doesn't surprise me

    Welcome to 1984 folks, make sure you don't get one with a built in webcam.
    Alan Smithie
  • LG: Here's what you need to do

    As part of your damage control, here's what you need to do:

    1. Profusely apologize to the world
    2. Issue a firmware upgrade that disables the snooping

    As it stands, you are ruining what otherwise would have been one of the better TVs on the market. You are turning customers away from your product.

    And what is thus bull***t response (quoted in the story) where you tell people they have accepted the terms and conditions of the TV. What the...? Since when do customers accept terms and conditions when they buy a TV?
  • i haerd a speaker telling how every appliance would be internet connected

    Toasters, refrigerators, etc. providing data on everything imaginable and more (food consumption, usage patterns, ..., ...) this was in 1996. The plan has been a long time coming but it seems to be coming true and shows that this has all been planned for decades.

    The spying by Corporate Big Marketing is far more dangerous than whatever the NSA is doing and the NSA is just piggybacking on the services provided by the corporate spies.
  • Oh, so this is what they mean by "smart".

    I'll be sticking with "dumb", thank you very much.