The Hustle

Et tu, TV? A new channel opens in the data collection arms race

A new wave of startups are figuring out ways to track what you watch on TV and serve targeted ads on other devices.

These days, concerns about data privacy are mostly focused on internet giants that track your personal habits to serve targeted ads.

But, according to the The New York Times, there’s a new trend in ad-driven data collection coming down the pipe — or should we say, “the tube”…

NEWS FLASH: Your TV is probably spying on you

Samba TV, a San Francisco-based startup with $40m in funding, makes its money by recording your viewing habits and allowing advertisers to send targeted ads to your phone or computer.

Through deals with smart-TV manufacturers, Samba’s pre-installed software “cleverly [recognizes] onscreen content,” then links that ad you saw during The Bachelorette to your other connected devices for retargeting.

And it’s not just them. One of their competitors, Alphonso, leverages mobile games to hijack microphones to listen for TV audio signals.

But, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise

Ad tech companies like Samba are racing to find unexplored loopholes that offer an edge for targeting and attribution. Unfortunately, that means we need to have a healthy sense of skepticism about what we “opt-in” to.

Samba TV offers a vague “opt-in” screen for new TV owners which, according to one of their executives, 90% of people enable even though about 0% understand what it actually means.

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