LG smart TVs send viewing habits, filenames back to manufacturer

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.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

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.

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