Money Making Sense: Is your smart TV watching you?

Dec 8, 2020, 5:14 PM | Updated: Dec 9, 2020, 5:46 pm
Orem hackers...
Photo: Adobe Stock

SALT LAKE CITY — Did you just buy a smart TV during the Black Friday sales? Are you taking part in remote work meetings from home on Zoom?

Chris Willis, chief of design for Domo, said your electronic devices could be spying on you.  In an episode of “Money Making Sense,” he told host Heather Kelly how to prevent personal information from being sent to marketers. They also discussed how hackers can use your AI (artificial intelligence) devices against you. 

Willis also said — over Zoom — that technology is great at helping us stay connected to our world from home, but technology can also open us up to vulnerabilities. 

Passwords are the keys to you and your stuff

Staying safe with technology starts with having a secure password, not sharing it with others and changing it on a regular basis, he said.

Willis said on the Dark Web there are lists of millions of the most common passwords. 


“‘1, 2, 3’ is actually a password that people use,” he said, “and they do use what we would call dictionary words” such as  “dance,” “dog,” “sister” or “mother.” 

Willis advised creating a l-o-n-g password that includes random characters because random characters — &^$#@ — are not found in dictionaries. Your password should also contain a combination of upper and lowercase letters.

He recommended using reputable password-management software. He said he pays $4 a month for the protection, and says the cost is money well spent.

Heather said she’s a cheapskate and doesn’t want to pay $48 a year. She asked Willis about using a long, complicated password for every site she needs to access, instead.

“That’s better in some ways, but it’s not going to make you ultimately more secure. And the reason is hackers understand that is a common pattern which people follow,” Willis said.

He said password-management software checks to make sure you’re not using the same password twice; it also scans the Dark Web to find passwords that have been hacked and used in security breaches somewhere else.

Willis mentioned another powerful security feature used by the bigger, more reputable online sources, such as Google and Apple, which protects the user from a stranger trying to access their data such as personal details or financial assets, is two-factor authentication.

He said if your identity has been hacked or your financial assets breached, it will cost you more than $48 a year.

“[Being hacked] could burden you for years,” he warned. 

Convenience vs. privacy: a tradeoff

How does someone hack my smart TV or Alexa device — or can they? Heather asked.

Willis said these types of electronics learn about you as you use them, such as the sound of your voice, what genres of music you listen to or what TV or movies you watch.

“As you’re watching TV, they’re kind of watching you,” he said.

Willis warned that these types of devices tend to have the default settings turned on when they are sold; you could be sharing information with the manufacturer or a third party unknowingly as a result.

He also advised turning off the automatic content-recognition (ACR) feature on your smart TV, which collects data about what you watch. Manufacturers have different names for what they call ACR. 

The ACR feature watches what you watch, then matches it against a database of everything everyone else is watching for marketing purposes. The goal is to provide relevant choices about what you might like to watch in the future, Willis said.

“For the most part, I don’t think people know that they’re being observed in that way. So that’s one of the first things I look for as a consumer. Go through the settings, do the boring stuff. It feels sometimes like doing your taxes,” Chris said.

Learn how to turn off this snooping feature on your smart TV here.

Protecting a smart TV

Heather noted that some homeowners have security cameras inside their homes to check on their pets, the house cleaning crew, possible burglars, etc. But there have been news reports of outsiders hacking into those cameras. They can watch and even speak to people inside the home.

For example, this report from NBC News: Man hacks Ring camera in 8-year-old girl’s bedroom, taunts her: ‘I’m Santa Claus’

Willis said when you bring new devices into your home, you can, in a sense, also bring “countless strangers” in, as well.

“A lot of this, though, does start with, as we talked about earlier, taking your password accounts very seriously,” he said.

Willis stressed the need to change your passwords regularly and during the moment you notice any activity on any of your accounts that you don’t recognize.


Today’s Top Stories

All News

Respect for Marriage Act...

Bill protecting same-sex, interracial unions passes House

President Joe Biden is expected to promptly sign the measure, which requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages, a relief for many.
10 hours ago
traffic in utah lines up...
Heather Kelly and Elizabeth Weiler

Crashes and bad weather cause traffic across Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — Several crashes caused closures and delays on major freeways and ramps across the state Thursday morning. I-15 traffic An early morning crash on northbound on I-15 caused an oil spill in Draper. By 9 a.m. on Thursday, the freeway was closed at 146000 South and there were six miles of stopped […]
10 hours ago
West Jordan Elementary is closing its gate for the last time at the end of the school year, due to ...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

West Jordan Elementary School is closing its gates after 40 years

West Jordan Elementary is closing its gate for the last time at the end of the school year, due to safety issues within the infrastructure.
10 hours ago
A Utah doctor says Americans should not avoid a preventative test for colon cancer, despite a recen...
Simone Seikaly

After celebrity death to colon cancer, Utah doctor weighs in on colonoscopy

Colon cancer and colonoscopies are in the news after the death of actress Kirstie Alley to colorectal cancer.
10 hours ago
Those planning herb gardens in Utah should focus on five specific plants -- basil, parsley, chives,...
Michelle Lee

Planning herb gardens in Utah? Here are 5 must-haves!

Basil tops the list of recommendations when planning herb gardens according to USU Extension horticulturist Sheriden Hansen.
10 hours ago
U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later...
Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood, Jeremy Herb and MJ Lee, CNN

WNBA star Brittney Griner released from Russian detention in prisoner swap for convicted arms dealer

The Biden administration repeatedly made offers to get Whelan released as part of this deal, even after Russia made clear only Griner was acceptable.
10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Money Making Sense: Is your smart TV watching you?