Do you have CCTV in your home?

Mariner knows most of his readers are calloused to the abuses of privacy but perhaps one should know about another nosy source:

Smart TVs are just like search engines, social networks, and email providers that give us a free service in exchange for monitoring us and then selling that info to advertisers leveraging our data. These devices are collecting information about what you’re watching, how long you’re watching it, and where you watch it, then selling that data—which is a revenue stream that didn’t exist a couple of years ago. There’s nothing particularly secretive about this—data-tracking companies such as Inscape and Samba proudly brag right on their websites about the TV manufacturers they partner with and the data they amass.

The companies that manufacture televisions call this “post-purchase monetization,” and it means they can sell TVs almost at cost and still make money over the long term by sharing viewing data. In addition to selling your viewing information to advertisers, smart TVs also show ads in the interface. Roku, for example, prominently features a given TV show or streaming service on the right-hand side of its home screen—that’s a paid advertisement.

Whatever you’re watching on your smart TV, algorithms are tracking your habits – when you watch, how long you watch, what you watch . . . This influences the ads you see on your TV, yes, but if you connect your Google or Facebook account to your TV, it will also affect the ads you see while browsing the web on your computer or phone. In a sense, your TV now isn’t that different from your Instagram timeline or your TikTok recommendations. There’s an old joke: “In America, you watch television; in Soviet Russia, television watches you!” In 2022, TVs track your activity to an extent the Soviets could only dream of.[1]

Today this is old hat privacy invasion to us. It’s the projections into future capabilities for controlling life decisions that is dangerous. As more and more data about social status, religious affiliation, medical detail, personal fetishes, 24-hour awareness of our location, a history of one’s purchasing habits, genetic history – – can be combined to effectively eliminate a need for the gumption mariner often refers to. Humans are one step closer to a Matrix life. Maybe in a recliner instead of a coffin but still a Matrix life.

Ancient Mariner

[1] Adapted from Atlantic Magazine.

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