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Television Privacy

Declining LG's New Ad-friendly Privacy Policy Removes Features From Smart TVs 221

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the apt-get-install-xbmc dept.
BUL2294 (1081735) writes "Techdirt and Consumerist posted articles about a user in the UK who, after a firmware update to his 2-year old LG Smart TV, declined their new Privacy Policy, only to find that most Internet-connected features (e.g. BBC iPlayer, Skype) of the TV now no longer work. From the Techdirt article: 'Does a manufacturer have the right to "brick" certain integral services just because the end user doesn't feel comfortable sharing a bunch of info with LG and other, unnamed third parties? LG certainly feels it has the right to do this. In fact, it makes no secret of this in its long Privacy Policy — a document that spends more time discussing the lack thereof, rather than privacy itself. The opening paragraph makes this perfectly clear.' To add, even declining the policy still results in non-specified information being sent to LG. LG's policy of spying on the viewing habits of customers, along with sending filenames of videos stored on USB devices connected to TVs, was previously discussed on Slashdot."
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Declining LG's New Ad-friendly Privacy Policy Removes Features From Smart TVs

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  • by cardpuncher (713057) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @11:48AM (#47056801)

    No. Not in UK law, I'm pretty sure, though IANAL.

    The Data Protection Act (DPA) means you have to be able to opt out of this kind of intrusive data harvesting and if the disabling of advertised functionality isn't covered by the Sale of Goods Act, it would seem that the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations would apply. The DPA applies to your relationship with the data processor (LG) while the functionality of the TV is the responsibility of the retailer.

    The correct remedy would be to return the TV to the retailer and demand a refund or a "repair" and to go to the small claims court if they refuse. LG won't be happy when retailers start pushing back.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @11:48AM (#47056805) Homepage
    customers can upgrade [xbmc.org] to a version compatible with LG's now 'dumb' televisions. this new firmware stores and receives digital media, imports users music, can be viewed in multiple rooms, and wont cripple your cat if you dont forward a list of your favourite shows to them.
  • Re:Send it back.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by contrapunctus (907549) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @11:53AM (#47056859)

    For all you know it's a placebo button ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org] ) and they might still collect everything anyway (you many have to look at data sent). I remember news stories about someone who analyzed the network data and found data still being sent (that was an LG though, http://www.tomsguide.com/us/lg... [tomsguide.com]).

  • Re:Send it back.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Noah Haders (3621429) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @12:06PM (#47057009)

    Having said that, not connecting it at all is not an option for me, that would break netflix.

    why plug the smart tv at all, and just get a roku or apple tv? both have way better interfaces than smart tv, offer more features, and better privacy protection. At the very least, the roku/apple tv are their own little boxes, so worst case they can only share information on your activities there and not on your entire living room experience.

    srsly, some tvs have a video camera for skype? talk about a telescreen. you never know when they're watching, so you have to assume they're watching all the time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @12:18PM (#47057137)

    Most consumer routers have a simple blacklist for ip's per pc ip. Simply block their addresses. Google them or run a wireshark on an isolated hub+pc and make note.

    I have and LG TV and the new eula needs someone to go after it. It even sends audio recording if you use the mic to their servers.

  • Re:Send it back.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @12:21PM (#47057175)

    Especially since courts have upheld EULAs as being valid, even if they basically give themselves the power to do anything they like. And it's all nice and legal. For many consumers, they don't know or care -- sure I'll give you my data, just give me the stuff I want on the interwebs.

    Actually no, at least in the US they haven't. With the sole (and bizarre) exception of software.

    EULAs are hardly a new thing. They have been tried with everything from home appliances to garden shovels (yes, really). And the courts have consistently held that if you buy a product at retail, once you plunk down your money, the manufacturer or supplier cannot impose conditions on the use of the product. (They can void a warranty for activities that might damage the equipment, but that's about it.) There have been 2 exceptions, and they are very different kinds of exceptions:

    One has been software. However, that has still not been firmly tested in higher court. There is no rational reason why software should be different from just about every other good that is for sale.

    The other is when there is a prior agreement to use a product in a certain way. For example: your company has a contract or license with a software (or hardware!) company that imposes such rules. If you have an up-front agreement that mandates only certain kinds of use, it is enforceable.

    "Shrink-wrap licenses" (the most common form of EULA today) are generally not enforceable in the US when it is a retail purchase. But again, as I say, some courts have (bizarrely, irrationally, and against all precedent) upheld them for software, on thin grounds. If it is ever tested in the higher courts, chances are post-sale "licenses" will be struck down for software, just as they have for every other kind of product under the sun.

  • by Mister Transistor (259842) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @12:23PM (#47057207) Journal

    Why, did you get one of those piece of shit ROKU boxes? I had one, for exactly one day. Turns out the piece of shit was directly engineered to separate me from my cash. The first thing it wanted was a fucking credit card so they could start happily billing me even more for the device I just paid $100 for. The final straw was after digging through it and all the stupid "apps" for it you have to buy, I finally figured out the only way it would play my LOCAL MEDIA that I specifically purchased it for was to BUY A FUCKING APP to do it for $4-5 bucks. That did it.

    The POS went back the next day flat, and I bought a WD-TV Live box instead. It did everything I ever wanted it to do, and it supports LOTS more a/v file formats, way more than the ROKU did. It will play .ISO DVD images directly, and understands .AVI, .MPG, .MP4, .MKV and whole host of other formats. The WD-TV Live was one of the best purchases I have made in the last few years. ROKU sucks donkey balls. Maybe they fixed this in later software upgrades, but somehow I doubt it, as I said it seemed engineered to drain my wallet, primarily...

  • Re:Send it back.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @12:27PM (#47057241)
    I left something out which is important:

    US courts have invalidated "license agreements" or "use restrictions" on retail products, even when those restrictions are clearly visible on a package or label before purchase. Yes, really. The reasoning is: you paid your money, you own it. You have a legal right to use your property in any manner you choose. Although, as I mentioned, some uses can void the warranty, IF the warranty conditions are reasonably tied to possible damage of the product.
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @12:30PM (#47057285) Homepage Journal

    There is no rational reason why software should be different from just about every other good that is for sale.

    Unlike physical goods, works of authorship in digital form need to be copied into RAM in order to be used, bringing in copyright law. They also often need to be decrypted in order to be used, bringing in anticircumvention law.

  • by ZahrGnosis (66741) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @12:34PM (#47057319) Homepage

    Ah, good, someone pointed this out already. Of course... you got down-modded because you gave like ZERO useful information, so here's some elaboration:

    Sony upgraded the PS3 software and removed the capability to dual-boot into Linux (the "OtherOS" feature). There was a class action lawsuit that was dismissed apparently because the plaintiffs didn't do a good job showing actual damage [courthousenews.com].

    I remember some good analysis of the issue at the time. One analysis concluded that the PS3 owners had the right to reject the upgrade, and that the system itself could function as normal, but the ongoing use of the Sony servers represented a "continuing relationship" whereby the company did have the right to change the agreement and the users could either accept the changes or stop using the service entirely. The "service" was free, or paid monthly, and differentiated from the "hardware" which performed precisely as it was sold _if you didn't upgrade the firmware_.

    Of course this varied from country to country, but I know of no country where Sony was held liable (someone should correct me -- I could easily have missed one).

    I'm sure there was more nuance, but I'm paraphrasing something I read long ago. Anyway, the same logic may or may not apply here... did the LG TV advertise these features? Could the streaming "features" be considered a subscription based service, rather than tied to the hardware advertising? LG can argue that every online service faces some time-dependant obsolescence and change; they may end up being in the clear.

  • by PRMan (959735) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @01:41PM (#47057965)
    The big issue is that almost all new Blu-Ray discs required a firmware update to play. I bought my PS3 when there were less than 100 Blu-Ray discs. How could I know that in 3 years I would have a choice between features A & B (movies and games) or C (linux)? I didn't pay for one or the other, I paid for both.

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