Your Smart TV Is Probably Tracking You

iStock
iStock

Smart home devices may make life convenient, but they can also introduce headaches you never anticipated. Your Amazon Echo might laugh at you or your smart TV might track your every move. According to Lifehacker, a number of smart televisions from major brands feature user-tracking software that customers may not be aware of.

The New York Times reports that some TVs from companies like Sony, Sharp, and Philips come preinstalled with software from a data-tracking company called Samba TV. When customers go to set up their new devices, the TV prompts them to enable Samba Interactive TV to get personal recommendations.

According to the Times, the data that Samba TV collects is incredibly detailed:

"Once enabled, Samba TV can track nearly everything that appears on the TV on a second-by-second basis, essentially reading pixels to identify network shows and ads, as well as programs on Netflix and HBO and even video games played on the TV. Samba TV has even offered advertisers the ability to base their targeting on whether people watch conservative or liberal media outlets and which party’s presidential debate they watched."

This allows marketers access to an incredible amount of information about you beyond just what you watch on Netflix. Because these are smart TVs connected to Wi-Fi, Samba TV can also identify which other devices are connected to your home network.

It’s not just a matter of one company like Samba TV, either. In February 2018, a Consumer Reports analysis found that “all smart TVs can collect—and share—significant amounts of personal data” through what’s called automatic content recognition (ACR)—streaming audio and/or video of what you’re doing on your TV back to third-party companies.

Unless you really, really like those uber-specific ads and recommendations that Samba TV serves you, you probably want to shut it off, but how you disable this tracking will vary based on the brand of your device. For most, you’ll want to go to the main menu, then click into your settings. What the tracking system is called varies between devices, though.

For a Sony TV, you may need to go back and redo the initial setup of your television. From the home menu, click on Settings and Initial Setup. The TV will prompt you to agree to various policies. You can click yes to Sony and Google’s policies, but go ahead and disable the Samba TV one.

On a Samsung TV, you need to do a little digging. Go to the settings menu, then click Terms and Policies. Go to Viewing Information Services and disable SyncPlus.

On an LG TV, go to your general settings and turn off LivePlus.

On Roku TVs made by TCL, you’ll need to go to your privacy settings, click on Smart TV Experience, and disable the Use Information for TV Inputs setting.

Head to Consumer Reports for more details about disabling tracking technology on your TV.

[h/t Lifehacker]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

More Than 38,000 Pounds of Ground Beef Has Been Recalled

Beef-ware.
Beef-ware.
Angele J, Pexels

Your lettuce-based summer salads are safe for the moment, but there are other products you should be careful about using these days: Certain brands of hand sanitizer, for example, have been recalled for containing methanol. And as Real Simple reports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) recently recalled 38,406 pounds of ground beef.

When JBS Food Canada ULC shipped the beef over the border from its plant in Alberta, Canada, it somehow skirted the import reinspection process, so FSIS never verified that it met U.S. food safety standards. In other words, we don’t know if there’s anything wrong with it—and no reports of illness have been tied to it so far—but eating unapproved beef is simply not worth the risk.

The beef entered the country on July 13 as raw, frozen, boneless head meat products, and Balter Meat Company processed it into 80-pound boxes of ground beef. It was sent to holding locations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina before heading to retailers that may not be specific to those four states. According to a press release, FSIS will post the list of retailers on its website after it confirms them.

In the meantime, it’s up to consumers to toss any ground beef with labels that match those here [PDF]. Keep an eye out for lot codes 2020A and 2030A, establishment number 11126, and use-or-freeze-by dates August 9 and August 10.

[h/t Real Simple]