TECHNOLOGY
Vizio settles with FTC in TV spying case

The Federal Trade Commission said Monday that Vizio used 11 million televisions to spy on its customers.

The company agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a case with the FTC and the New Jersey attorney general’s office after the agencies accused it of secretly collecting — and selling — data about its customers’ locations, demographics and viewing habits.

“Before a company pulls up a chair next to you and starts taking careful notes on everything you watch (and then shares it with its partners), it should ask if that’s O.K. with you,” Kevin Moriarty, an attorney with the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection, wrote in a blog post. “Vizio wasn’t doing that, and the FTC stepped in.”

As part of the settlement, Vizio neither confirmed nor denied wrongdoing. “Today, the FTC has made clear that all smart-TV makers should get people’s consent before collecting and sharing television viewing information, and Vizio now is leading the way,” Vizio general counsel Jerry Huang said.

According to the lawsuit, Vizio was literally watching its watchers — capturing “second-by-second information” about what people viewed on its smart TVs. That included data from cable, broadband, set-top boxes, over-the-air broadcasts, DVDs and streaming devices. Vizio also is accused of linking the demographic information — including users’ sex, age and income — to the data and selling it to firms that do targeted advertising.

Vizio said that it never paired viewing information with data that identified individual users but used viewing data only in “the ‘aggregate’ to create summary reports measuring viewing audiences or behaviors.”

— Hayley Tsukayama

FOOD INDUSTRY
Tyson faces subpoena in collusion probe

Accusations of collusion that have dogged the American chicken industry in recent months took a new turn after Tyson Foods, the country’s largest producer, said the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the allegations and had sent a subpoena.

The company said Monday in a filing that based on the limited information it has, it believes the probe relates to the accusations contained in antitrust litigation involving broiler chickens. Tyson and its largest competitors have been named as defendants in lawsuits in recent months that claim the industry colluded starting in 2008 to drive prices higher, allegations denied by Tyson and the other producers.

Tyson said in the filing that it is cooperating with the SEC. Chief executive Tom Hayes declined to comment further but said Tyson wants to defend itself in court.

— Bloomberg News

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