there are plenty of cases where you throw down hundreds of dollars for a piece of hardware and then you end up being the product anyway. Case in point: TVs.
On Wednesday, the television giant LG announced a new offering to advertisers that promises to be able to reach the company’s millions of connected devices in households across the country, pummeling TV viewers with—you guessed it—targeted ads. While ads playing on your connected TV might not be anything new, some of the metrics the company plans to hand over to advertisers include targeting viewers by specific demographics, for example, or being able to tie a TV ad view to someone’s in-store purchase down the line.
If you swap out a TV screen for a computer screen, the kind of microtargeting that LG’s offering doesn’t sound any different than what a company like Facebook or Google would offer. That’s kind of the point.
Aside from being an eyesore that literally no TV user wants, these ads come bundled with their own privacy issues, too. While the kinds of invasive tracking and targeting that regularly happens with the ads on your Facebook feed or Google search results are built off of more than a decade’s worth of infrastructure, those in the connected television (or so-called “CTV”) space are clearly catching up, and catching up fast. Aside from what LG’s offering, there are other players in adtech right now that offer ways to connect your in-app activity to what you watch on TV, or the billboards you walk by with what you watch on TV. For whatever reason, this sort of tech largely sidesteps the kinds of privacy snafus that regulators are trying to wrap their heads around right now—regulations like CPRA and GDPR are largely designed to handle your data is handled on the web, not on TV.
The good news is that you have some sort of refuge from this ad-ridden hell, though it does take a few extra steps. If you own a smart TV, you can simply not connect it to the internet and use another device—an ad-free set-top box like an Apple TV, for instance—to access apps. Sure, a smart TV is dead simple to use, but the privacy trade-offs might wind up being too great.