The Federal German Cartel Office wants to find out whether smart TV manufacturers violate consumer protection laws when handling personal user data.
In the course of the so-called sector inquiry that has now been launched, the competition authority particularly intends to examine the contractual terms applied by the manufacturers.
“Smart TVs are merely one example of the ever-growing connectedness of things in private life and the issue of knowingly and unknowingly disclosing personal data. For the purposes of our inquiry, we have deliberately picked an everyday item which is also used by people who are not very technology-savvy. The fate of consumer data once released and their commercial use will certainly keep us busy beyond the current sector inquiry,” said Andreas Mundt, President of the Federal Cartel Office.
Unlike traditional TV sets, smart TVs have an internet connection through which the viewers not only receive data and channels but also transmit their user data. There is reason to believe that smart TVs pass on such personal data without the user being appropriately informed or being able to object to such transfer, according to the competition authority. The sector inquiry’s primary objective is now to clarify if and to what extent smart TV manufacturers collect, pass on and commercially use personal data and whether the persons concerned are being appropriately informed of this practice.
As a first step, questionnaires will be sent to all major TV manufacturers in early 2018. This survey aims to reveal potential weaknesses in general terms and conditions, data protection and data safety. The insights gathered from this sector inquiry should also help the authority in identifying further consumer protection issues regarding the internet of things.