At the Intersection of Technology, Law, and Business
March 02, 2017 - Regulatory, Hardware

Watch Out: The Federal Trade Commission Continues to Watch the (Alleged) Watchers

Watch Out: The Federal Trade Commission Continues to Watch the (Alleged) Watchers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleges in a recent settlement with smart TV manufacturer Vizio, Inc. that it unfairly and deceptively collected, disclosed, and used TV viewer information for advertising practices in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.

The Decision Reinforces the Position That:

  • Collection and use of information that would surprise the consumer requires just-in-time notice and choice;
  • Television viewing activity constitutes sensitive data;
  • FTC is likely to be more aggressive when seeking to obtain injunctive monetary relief in Section 5 cases; and
  • It seems to be using allegedly bad facts about privacy practices to push the envelope of its authority.

What Is New Here, and Why It Matters

FTC seems to be strongly suggesting that use of information collected from connected TVs is not reasonably expected by consumers.  Television viewing data is “sensitive”, and sharing it without consent can cause substantial viewer injury and is therefore, unfair.  FTC indicated how it wants notice and choice to consumers to be provided, and relief included significant monetary equitable relief from Vizio.

Companies working in this space may now need to re-evaluate the potential risks of alleged noncompliance with the FTC Act.