How to stop your new TV from tracking what you watch

The Super Bowl is just over two weeks away, and that means you might be in the market for a new big screen TV. But before you pull out your credit card, you should know about your next TV. You know, beyond that you should get a 65-inch OLED and have it shipped to my address.

Namely how to disable some of the tracking features built into your new set. That’s right, like everything else with an internet connection, your television tracks what you watch, for how long, when you watch it, what streaming device you watch it on — even how you use your remote.

The reason? Partly to improve your user experience and build out better features. The other half of that reason? To sell ads, of course! That’s right, those ads on your smart TV’s menus are likely targeted based on data your TV has collected about your watching habits.

Thankfully, if you don’t feel like letting a Samsung, LG, or Sony TV set know that you’ve binged 20 hours of “Love Island” in a single weekend, you can turn off such trackers.

Automated Content Recognition

Most smart TVs today use a technology called automated content recognition or ACR. That’s how they see what you’re watching, when, and how long you’ve watched it for. Its main purposes are to recommend shows based on what you’ve watched, and, naturally, help TV makers serve you ads.

The information ACR grabs can come from virtually anything you connect to your TV, whether that’s via your Roku, a Blu-Ray, over the air, or through a game console. Basically, anything that you’re watching content on.

In addition to sucking up your viewing information, some TVs will give you the option to turn personalized advertisements on or off.

Before we get to turning these “features” off, it’s important to note that doing so can shut down some of your TV’s capabilities, such as recommended shows and the like. You’ll still be able to use the TV as normal — you just won’t get all of the “smart” options they come with.

is her TV tracking her? Image: Getty
is her TV tracking her? Image: Getty

I’m happy to make the trade-off, since I just want to play video games and stream Netflix. And sure, those companies are collecting my data too. But if I can cut at least one link out of the chain of firms vacuuming up my information, I’ll take it.

And before you start fiddling with your TV's settings, you always have the option to just disconnect your television from the internet if you don’t want it to send any of your data out.

How to find ACR on your set

Like everything TV related, each company has its own name for the ACR setting. They also put them in different places in their TVs’ settings menus. On my LG, the option is called Live Plus, and is found in the General section of the settings menu. You can disable it by simply navigating to the section and ticking the slider to the off position.

Above Live Plus, you’ll see something called Advertisement: Click that and turn that off to disable personalized ads.

If you’ve got a Samsung TV, the process and name of the software is a bit different. From the Settings menu, navigate to Terms & Policies, and then turn off both the Viewing Information Services option and Internet Based Advertisements.

Finally, Sony’s Bravia TVs refer to content tracking technology as Samba Interactive TV. To disable this, you’ll need to navigate to System Preferences and then go to Samba Interactive TV. Flip the switch from on to off, and you’ll be set.

Myriad other TVs including those from Vizio, TCL, and others have similar options in their settings menus; it’s just a matter of finding them. The important thing to remember is that turning these features off won’t completely eliminate user tracking. Your streaming stick or cable box might also track what you watch and do, and services like Netflix also see what you watch the most.

Still, cutting off one source of information you don’t want to share is surprisingly easy.

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