On Roku and Amazon Fire TV, Channels Are Watching You

Wired | 9/18/2019 | Staff
nallynally (Posted by) Level 4
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By this point hopefully you're at least generally aware that the digital ad ecosystem tracks you across the web, building a composite profile to more effectively target ads your way. But new research shows that the tentacles of that octopus extend farther than ever—all the way into the most popular streaming video services and devices.

On Wednesday, researchers from Princeton University and the University of Chicago detailed the tracking that happens behind the scenes in over 2,000 channels on Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices. The researchers bought different models of the streaming sticks and built a tool to monitor and analyze their network traffic to see the data coming to—and more importantly, going from—the devices. They found that 89 percent of Amazon Fire TV channels and 69 percent of Roku channels contained easily spottable trackers that collected information about a viewing habits and preferences, along with unique identifiers like device serial numbers and IDs, Wi-Fi network names, and the Wi-Fi identifiers known as MAC addresses.

News - Articles - Roku - Money - Hardware

"We knew just from reading news articles that Roku made more money from advertising than from selling hardware last year, but it was still really surprising when we found all the different trackers," says Gunes Acar, a digital privacy researcher at KU Leuven, formerly with Princeton. "On some channels we found there are more than 64 different trackers collecting data about what you view and for how long. And unlike with browsers or mobile apps you really have no tools or extensions to look into this traffic or block ads. So transparency-wise it’s really bad for the user. You have no way to know what data is being collected and you have no recourse."

"It looks like an overly invasive measure."

Mechanisms - Computers - Devices - Researchers

The ad-tracking mechanisms on regular computers don't translate perfectly to streaming devices, but the researchers suspect...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Wired
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