Telly, the “free” smart TV with ads, has privacy policy red flags

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Yesterday, we looked at a new hardware company called Telly that’s offering half a million new smart TVs for free. The catch is that the 55-inch Smart TV comes with a second screen that sits underneath and displays ads while you watch your favorite shows.

The trade-off for free TV is agreeing to let this new startup collect massive amounts of data about you because the money the ads make from you pay for the TV itself.

According to its privacy policy, the startup collects data about what you watch, where you are, and what you view, as well as what can be inferred about you from that information.

But annotations left in its privacy policy that were posted in error raise concerns about its data practices. As noted before Journalist Shoshana Wodinsky:

We pasted the verbatim portion of Telly’s Privacy Policy, including typos, as it was posted at the time – and highlighted the questionable passage in wide For confirmation:

As stated in the Terms of Use, we do not knowingly collect or solicit Personal Data about children under the age of 13; if you are a child under the age of 13, please do not attempt to register, use the Services, or submit any Personal Data to us. Use of the Services may result in to record the physical presence of a child under the age of 13, but no personal data about the child is collected.If we learn that we have collected personal data from a child under the age of 13, we will delete that information as quickly as possible. (I don’t know that’s accurate. Should we say we’re going to delete the information or is there some other way around this)? If you believe that a child under 13 may have provided Personal Data to us, please contact us at…”

Shortly after Telly was contacted for comment, the company removed the section from its privacy policy.

In an email, Telly’s chief strategy officer, Dallas Lawrence, said an old draft of the privacy policy had been uploaded in error.

“The questions raised in the document between the developer team and our legal counsel about privacy seem a bit out of context. The issue that was raised was a two-part technical question of timing and whether or not we might have been in possession of this type of data,” Lawrence said. “The team was not clear about the amount of time we would have to delete any data we might inadvertently capture on children under the age of 13. The term “as soon as possible” that was included in the language of the draft seemed vague, undefined, and needy [sic] Further explanation from a technical perspective.

Its developers don’t believe it’s possible to capture personal data on children under 13, Lawrence said, adding that minors are “not allowed to sign up” for Telly.

It’s not the only red flag in politics itself. According to the policy, some of the data you collect is sensitive, such as precise geolocation. TV also collects names, email addresses, phone numbers, ages, birthdates, zip codes, gender, ethnicity, and “sexuality or sexual orientation” (which Telly quietly removed after this article was published).

The startup says it also collects your “cultural or social identifiers,” such as which sports team you might like (“a Green Bay Packers fan”), physical activities you enjoy (like “being a skater”), but also things like if you’re an “activist.” environmentally,” the policy states.

While it may not be surprising that a free, ad-supported product gathers vast amounts of information about its users, there are risks in collecting this data to begin with.

Ad networks collect combinations of information from various sources – websites, mobile apps and ad-supported devices – to create profiles about users that can be used for targeted advertising. The more ad networks collect, the more they can infer about you, and the more they think they can show you precisely the ads you are likely to click on and make money from.

Once the data is collected, the advertising data is shared and sold by data brokers, who then sell it to companies and other companies for anything from preventing fraud to enabling monitoring. Data brokers also sell advertising data to law enforcement agencies, which can purchase the data instead of obtaining a court order. The FTC recently accused data broker Kochava of selling geolocation data on “hundreds of millions” of mobile devices, which could be used to track individuals’ movements to sensitive locations, such as abortion clinics and places of worship.

Smart TVs are notorious data collectors. Years ago, Vizio TVs were caught spying on customers’ viewing habits and later ordered to provide customers with a way to opt out of tracking. Other smart TV makers aren’t much different: Samsung collects information about what users watch on their smart TVs, data that was later stolen in a data breach last year.

Especially with hardware, there is no such thing as free. If you don’t want your television to tell the world what you watch and why, Telly probably isn’t for you.

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