How to Turn Off Smart TV “Automatic Content Recognition”

Originally published at: How to Turn Off Smart TV “Automatic Content Recognition” - TidBITS

If you have purchased a new smart TV recently, beware that it probably shares everything that appears onscreen with its makers. Here are instructions for turning the privacy-abusing technology off for three major smart TV platforms.


Don’t use “smart” TV features at all. Don’t connect it to your LAN. Don’t configure Wi-Fi, ever (and don’t trust that they’ll actually disconnect if you delete the configuration). If for some reason you need to temporarily connect it (maybe a firmware update), use Ethernet and disconnect it when you’re done.

None of these companies should be trusted at all. The best of them are spying on you in order to get marketing data for advertisers. The worst are doing it on behalf of government agencies, foreign and domestic.

Yes, this sounds paranoid. And no, I don’t have proof. But I’ve seen enough on the news that I don’t believe any corporation can be trusted anymore.


Some years ago my Sony Android TV updated, and displayed a dialog that you must opt-in to data collection or else you couldn’t get any more updates. I needed updates due to Android TV stability issues*, so I had to opt in.

I think it was related to Samba TV, but I’m not sure.

* which I still have

Isn’t it strange how industry-backed software restrictions prevent us from taking screenshots of movies and tv shows on our own devices, but ad companies are allowed to do it constantly in the background? :upside_down_face:


This is NOT only for new TVs. I have 2 Samsungs, one is 1.5 yrs old, the other is more than 8 years old. After reading the article, I decided to look for those settings on both sets. While the settings weren’t quite as straightforward as listed in the article, both TVs - even the one that’s more than 8 yrs old - had active privacy settings. I carefully went thru all privacy settings on both TVs & turned them off.

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Great to know @sf.ross — I’m not surprised about the newer model, but I am a little surprised that the older one would have had those settings. A good reminder that we should all check our TVs.

Like @Shamino, none of my TVs are ever connected to wifi or ethernet. I use Apple TV for smart TV features always. If they still sold TVs without any smart function, those are what I would buy.

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It took some looking around to find it on the older TV as the settings are completely different. But I’m stubborn - & very protective of my privacy - so I was determined to see if the settings were there & they were. Very surprising, given it the set is more than 8 years old.

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My 7-year-old LG TV had those settings in several different User Agreements, buried under multiple layers of menus. After reading the legalese it finally became clear that I could block the collection of data by NOT checking the boxes next to each agreement.

Hmmm, I wonder if my 2014 Sharp Aquos has any of this?

OK, just checked my manual and there is an are called “Smart Central” so it might. However, I’m guessing if I have never connected the TV to my network, I don’t have to worry about this, correct?

So glad to have my wonderful old gas plasma Panasonic, 1080p only but the images are lovely compared to the harsh screens available today.

Oh and it’s dumb, that too.


Like others, I don’t enable network access for any of my televisions; I just leave all that to an Apple TV box.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a new TLC television that is “powered by Amazon Fire.” It wouldn’t even let me get past the first setup screen without connecting it to Wi-Fi or ethernet. And, I have recently discovered, that when the unit is supposedly turned off (by all outward appearances) it is still listening, as Alexa devices do.

Word to the wise.


Ad companies pay big time big bucks to participate in connected TV advertising. If you use streaming services you are most probably being tracked and targeted.

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With newer tv’s that have over the air ATSC 3.0 tuners, you will need them connected to the internet if that station has DRM activated. This is currently a contentious issue for many.
My old Sony from 2009 had an ethernet port for updates which as I recall were never provided.

Yeah, I understand the twin causes of fear of piracy / money to be made that have led us here. But it’s a nonsensical end result for everyone actually using the devices they buy, rather than the industries behind them.

I had to buy a replacement TV about four and a half years ago when our older (first flat-screen TV) expired. For some reason (think it’s because the list prices reflect the subsidies from the data harvesters?), I was unable to identify a dumb monitor from any manufacturer. I decided to go with a Sony Bravia, but had to wait for a couple of months for the mid-model-year update that would be compatible with the HD audio (forget which standard) favored by my Apple TV 4K. I wanted to wait to increase my odds of getting a set with the mod already in place, because I didn’t want anything to do with an-Internet connected TV.

When I got the TV and started configuring it, I found that (1) I had lucked out — it was manufactured recently enough to come with the desired upgrade, but my luck had limits: (2) I was forced to configure the Google TV “feature.” After three failed attempts to get the TV to connect to my AirPort Express WiFi network, with an attempt to find a way to bypass the Google TV setup entirely, I lucked out: the firmware evidently decided that three times go for all, and it gave me the option to come back at an unspecified future date to “try again later,” which of course I never have.

I wish there some way to get Congresscritters to stop wasting time on trying to break up Apple and instead ban all personal data collection and transmission by all electronic devices.


How about very simple legislation that says any data harvesting requires 1) explicit permission by the user/owner and 2) consent cannot be required in order to render a device or service functional. Allow one sole exception: address for billing purposes only.

I bet lobby groups would immediately start fighting such a bill with the argument “it will make devices and services more expensive” as if consumers somehow weren’t able to put a price tag on their own privacy. Lobbyists, it’s called opportunity cost.

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I found this useful too.

Tom’s Guide - how to turn off data collection for every brand

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Several years ago someone with Snitch (or equivalent) looked at network traffic from their TV after setting all this to ‘off’. Shockingly, it was still sending it. Can you imagine? Shocked, we all were.

The only answer is to not connect it. Some people open the TV and unsolder things, because some of these TVs will find open Wifi to call home with. Amazon devices will use the Amazon-whatever magic connection technology to get around not explicitly being connected.

Next time you meet someone that works for Samsung et al tell them you’ve installed a webcam in their bathroom… see what they say. Ask them why this is fundamentally different.

Merry Christmas to us!

I’m relatively cool with netflix knowing what I watch on netflix or pluto what I watch on pluto, and maybe even selling that on if I’ve agreed to it. Not cool, but its better than…

I’m not cool with the maker of my TV spying on EVERYTHING that goes on my screen (airplay from laptop, say, or video calls, or holiday photos).