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

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

Also in Business

A Carnegie Mellon University student who developed and sold malicious software through an online cybercriminal marketplace that allowed others to remotely control Google Android smartphones has been sentenced to three years' probation. Morgan Culbertson is one of 12 people charged by U.S. authorities in a takedown of the worldwide cybercriminal marketplace, where hackers bought and sold malicious software and advertised schemes to infect computers and cellphones with software that could cripple or illegally control the devices.

Hasbro stock hit an all-time high Monday after posting record annual revenue after the toymaker snared the rights to Disney's princesses. Hasbro shares jumped 16 percent to $95.80 per share. Hasbro officials said sales in the girls category accounted for $1.19 billion of its $5.02 billion in revenue for 2016. That compares with total revenue of $4.45 billion in 2015. Profits for the fourth quarter reached $192.7 million, a 10 percent increase from the $175.8 million reported during the same period last year.

Dominion Resources is planning to change its name to Dominion Energy. The Richmond-based utility said Monday that it will seek shareholder approval to be renamed at the company's annual meeting this spring. Chairman Thomas Farrell II, who is also president and chief executive, said in a statement that the new name will unify the company's brands throughout the 18 states where it does business.

Loan officers at U.S. banks reported largely unchanged lending standards and slightly looser terms for business loans in the last three months of 2016, the Federal Reserve said Monday in a quarterly survey. About a third of the 69 institutions surveyed, however, said they had "tightened somewhat" the standards for commercial real estate construction and land development loans, and close to one-fifth had tightened standards on loans secured by multifamily properties.

— From news services

Coming Today

8:30 a.m.: Commerce Department releases international trade data for December.

10 a.m.: Labor Department releases job openings and labor turnover survey for December.

3 p.m.: Federal Reserve releases consumer credit data for December.

Earnings: BP, General Motors, Walt Disney.

Correction: A previous version incorrectly identified Kevin Moriarty as Kevin McCarthy.