“What Can’t Data Be Used For?” Privacy Expectations about Smart TVs in the U.S.

Title“What Can’t Data Be Used For?” Privacy Expectations about Smart TVs in the U.S.
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsMalkin, N., Bernd J., Johnson M., & Egelman S.
Published inProceedings of the 3rd European Workshop on Usable Security (EuroUSEC)

Smart TVs have rapidly become the most common smart appliance in typical households. In the U.S., most television sets on the market have advanced sensors not traditionally found on conventional TVs, such as a microphone for voice commands or a camera for photo or video input. These new sensors enable features that are convenient, but they may also introduce new privacy implications. We surveyed 591 U.S. Internet users about their current understanding and expectations about how smart TVs collect and use data. We found a wide range of assumptions and opinions among our respondents, and a good deal of uncertainty about what’s collected and how it is used. In addition, these assumptions and opinions varied between data types and sensors. One area where we found broad agreement was that it is unacceptable for the data to be repurposed or shared. But there was little understanding of the protections—or lack thereof—afforded by current laws and regulations to constrain such sharing. We hope that our findings will enhance end-user privacy by providing useful insights for smart TV manufacturers,regulators and lawmakers, and designers of privacy-enhancing technologies.


This research was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation grant, “Security and Privacy for Wearable and Continuous Sensing Platforms” (CNS-1514211). (Opinions,findings, and conclusions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.) Our thanks to the panelists and audience at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s workshop on smart TVs, held on December 7, 2016, where the last author presented a preliminary version of these findings.

ICSI Research Group

Usable Security and Privacy