LG Admits Its Smart TVs Collected Info, Promises Fix So Customers Can Actually Opt Out

Remember how a few days ago, we found out that LG’s Smart TVs were a little too smart, and were not only monitoring what customers watched in order to pitch better ads — whether or not you turned that setting off — but they also gathered filenames from connected USB drives? It’s backpedal time, ladies and gents: LG has issued a statement apologizing and promising to make everything right.

At first LG did the usual “Oh, we’re sorry someone is mad, we’ll totally look into that.” But it seems the company is prepared to take action, and has issued a statement (via Graham Cluley) saying that after investigating the recent claims, things are going to change.

It admits that yes, it was collecting stuff like “channel, TV platform broadcast source, etc.” from its customers with certain LG Smart TVs, but that “that is not personal but viewing information.” Which, okay, if I’m watching 13 episodes of Snapped! in a row, I consider that personal, but whatever.

LG said that it collected that information for advertisers and also to offer viewers recommendations, but that it should be a setting that can be turned off.

“We have verified that even when this function is turned off by the viewers, it continues to transmit viewing information although the data is not retained by the server. A firmware update is being prepared for immediate rollout that will correct this problem on all affected LG Smart TVs so when this feature is disabled, no data will be transmitted.”

Imagine that! A setting that can be turned on or off. Although it might be nice if the TVs came with the default set to “off,” but that’s just something customers should now be aware of before buying LG sets.

As for the TV’s propensity to collect the file names of any media connected via an external drive, LG reiterated that the files names weren’t really going anywhere at the moment, but it’ll fix that, too.

“While the file names are not stored, the transmission of such file names was part of a new feature being readied to search for data from the internet (metadata) related to the program being watched in order to deliver a better viewing experience. This feature, however, was never fully implemented and no personal data was ever collected or retained. This feature will also be removed from affected LG Smart TVs with the firmware update.”

Great. And are you sorry, LG? Yes.

“LG regrets any concerns these reports may have caused and will continue to strive to meet the expectations of all our customers and the public. We hope this update clears up any confusion.”

Read the full statement below:

At LG, we are always aiming to improve our Smart TV experience. Recently, it has been brought to our attention that there is an issue related to viewing information allegedly being gathered without consent. Our customers’ privacy is a very important part of the Smart TV experience so we began an immediate investigation into these claims. Here’s what we found:

Information such as channel, TV platform, broadcast source, etc. that is collected by certain LG Smart TVs is not personal but viewing information. This information is collected as part of the Smart TV platform to deliver more relevant advertisements and to offer recommendations to viewers based on what other LG Smart TV owners are watching. We have verified that even when this function is turned off by the viewers, it continues to transmit viewing information although the data is not retained by the server. A firmware update is being prepared for immediate rollout that will correct this problem on all affected LG Smart TVs so when this feature is disabled, no data will be transmitted.

It has also been reported that the names of media files stored on external drives such as USB flash devices are being collected by LG Smart TVs. While the file names are not stored, the transmission of such file names was part of a new feature being readied to search for data from the internet (metadata) related to the program being watched in order to deliver a better viewing experience. This feature, however, was never fully implemented and no personal data was ever collected or retained. This feature will also be removed from affected LG Smart TVs with the firmware update.

LG regrets any concerns these reports may have caused and will continue to strive to meet the expectations of all our customers and the public. We hope this update clears up any confusion

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  1. CommonC3nts says:

    This is now the age everyone has to check that their electronic devices dont phone home.
    Anything connected to the internet could be recording and sending information back to the mfg.

  2. ReverendTed57 says:

    Here’s your billion-dollar idea-of-the-moment:
    Software that sits on your router and watches for suspicious outbound traffic that could be (or has been identified to be) indicative of a double-agent device. (A term I have coined just now for consumer goods that spy on their owners.)

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      That’s called a firewall. Most consumer routers have a very rudimentary one that only looks for malicious activity, and what LG did would probably be hard to distinguish from a firmware or app update check. The only real defense is to use a packet sniffer like WireShark to spot-check what information is going out, and that’s beyond the ability of most consumers (probably myself, I just know about it, I have never done it).

  3. NorthernPike says:

    If LG had said
    “LG regrets the firmware transmitted this information without the consumer’s consent. We made a mistake and are fixing it.”
    rather than
    “LG regrets any concerns these reports may have caused and will continue to strive to meet the expectations of all our customers and the public. We hope this update clears up any confusion”

    Their statement is essentially blaming the guy who figured out the information was being sent for being a blabbermouth, outing them, and scaring everyone. There wasn’t any flippety-flappin confusion to be cleared up with the update.

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      Yeah, their response was in a way almost worse than ignoring it. I don’t think I’ll be trusting their internet-enabled electronics, period.

      I’m just glad my washing machine doesn’t require an internet connection. :D

  4. rmal says:

    What’s frustrating is that all consumer electronics will soon be gathering our data and sending to back to their corporate gathering sites. If any company wants my info, they need to pay me for it.
    I shudder to think of the info people with the new Xbox One are just giving away to Microsoft and their “always on” kinect camera. Just like LG they say it’s safe and private. When will people learn…