Smart TVs Network Traffic

#1

So I’ve heard people around the place talking about how your smart TV spies on you and how they take precautions against that by never connecting it to their WiFi or plugging in ethernet except to do firmware upgrades when needed (if they can’t be done via USB). Talk of TV’s monitoring what you do and sending it back home to big brother or worse sending video/audio out.

So today I was going through my network logs and trying to work out what this rouge device was that was connected to my network… the router says it’s ethernet and the manufacturer is Samsung… mmmm

I do recall plugging the TV back in to see if any of the smart apps could replace any boxes sitting under the TV, the short answer is no, they are all shit (mostly compared to the ATV4). In any case, it was never used past that one day and clearly I’ve forgotten to unplug it (or plugged it back in when I cleaned up the cables at Christmas time). What is very interesting is the daily log of data over the last few months.

Sadly this diagram is “all time” so I don’t know exactly when all these things happened, but I’ve looked further back into the history and there is only data back to September 2018 with large gaps where it must have been unplugged.

Now in context, my Samsung Smart TV has its speakers disabled, only has HDMI 1 plugged with video provided through an AV Reciever which also handles the sound. So there is no TV Guide to be downloaded/displayed (hell I don’t even think it’s ever been tuned into stations or has an antenna plugged into it) or overlay of news or anything ever displayed. Even the stock menus are never accessed, literally on/off are the only commands it should ever receive.

In any case, that’s a fair amount of data for a device that isn’t doing anything besides displaying the HDMI 1 input and I’ve now blocked it at the router.

…you know, those tin foil hats are kinda stylish…

1 Like

#2

Whilst some of that could be “innocent”… and some probably not… What I hate is the expectation that everyone has enough bandwidth to accommodate these devices. Obviously there’s an assumption that we all have 1st world internet services worldwide, whereas of course here in Australia we do not.

3 Likes

#3

An interesting concept I hadn’t considered, although if you were actively using any of the features (99% of which are streaming video of one sort or another) then this amount of data wouldn’t even be background noise.

For me the total connected time appears to be 4 - 5 months so that’s almost 1GB/month for zero value given my usage, so just power and data wasted for no good reason.

Given it’s mostly downloads, the upload could just be confirmation packets, although usage metrics aren’t exactly huge data sets so are probably in there too. Still I have to wonder, what the hell did it download 4GB of data for?

0 Likes

#4

Application updates? OS updates?

0 Likes

#5

…exfiltration

0 Likes

#6

For that the large amount of data would be going in the other direction.

0 Likes

#7

Good point.

0 Likes

#8

As I sit here in front of a sleeping Samsung Smart TV, it is a disturbing amount of data.

Even though you do not use any of the apps on the smart TV, I suppose they could be refreshing their data in the background in case you use them. For example, the Netflix app may download info on the latest movies and tv shows.

Similarly, perhaps it could be app updates.

Given the world we live in, it would not surprise me if it was some usage data.

We never use our SmartTV apps. In general, they appear to be no longer supported. We only use apps from our ATV4. My advice to TV buyers is to spend money on the best display tech for resolutions for which you can readily source content, but not on 3D, curved screens, TV apps or games. Just buy a low cost smart box for the apps, such as an ATV, Chromecast or similar. Then you can replace the box when necessary for relatively low cost, rather than having to buy a new TV.

0 Likes

#9

Wasnt Samsung the company busted for listening on conversations in people’s homes? I believe if you had the voice control active, whether using it or not, whatever it “heard” was being sent back to the mothership. I have friends with a gigantic Samsung TV and they read somewhere that it was happening so they deactivated the voice thing.

IN the meantime… I just want a “dumb” TV with a great screen. Doesnt exist. So I’m making do with my old nearly dumb Samsung (its got something thats supposed to be internet but its really boring. weather, and a couple of other apps. I dont use it of course. AppleTV and Fetch do me for all my TV connected needs.

0 Likes

#10

The problem I’ve found with our smart TVs is that the app stores don’t have complete Australian coverage. One or more of the free to air catch up apps won’t be available or Kayo (streaming sports) won’t be available.

So despite having 2 smart LG TVs I use an ATV4 on the main one and a cheap MiBox Android TV device on the bedroom TV (works surprisingly well actually).

0 Likes

#12
1 Like

#13

This.

My current TV is seven years old and despite a failed WiFi module which caused the TV to keep rebooting (despite it not actually being in use) at about four years old which was solved by pulling it apart and unplugging it, it’s still working a treat as a dumb screen.

I bought a 32" panel for the bedroom a little while back and at that end of the market there are some non-smart units, but when you are scraping the bottom of the barrel for a sub $200 option they will cut everything to meet a price point (and boy did they with the GVA unit I bought :stuck_out_tongue: It’s possible as a bedroom TV that’s used half a dozen times a year, but nothing I’d recommend to people).

If you want 60"+ the non smart ones are few and far between, especially if you step beyond the Kogan offerings into anything brand name. But as you get to that price range I supposed people expect more and the market for people who just want a good display is pretty small.

At the moment I’m happy in my 1080 world and while 4K would be nice, until one of the current ones dies this one is just fine.

0 Likes

#14

Luckily, I don’t. However, once you go over 32", they are few and far between in any case. My house is miniscule, so I really can’t go larger than about 49-50". For preference I’d have 43". I wanted to get UHD and thats where it all falls over. My Samsung 32" is FHD but I’d rather have higher definition, in going larger. And they don’t seem to come without the smarts. I wouldn’t use that aspect, of course, but it just seems to be a waste. I’ll keep looking.

0 Likes

#15

Generally you just have to make peace with the “free extras” you don’t need so long as they don’t impact the bits you do. I wouldn’t die in a ditch over removing the smarts.

1 Like

#16

My TVs do not have physical network connections (wifi or Ethernet). I see no reason at all to connect them… :man_shrugging:

1 Like

#17

Given that I use my TV as a display panel only, I’d prefer it didn’t take the best part of 30 seconds to start up, plus a few more to actually finish loading the OS so that it can actually respond to input.
I don’t want a smart TV, I want a dumb as a box of rocks TV. Take an input and display it with minimal processing thanks.

I was so gutted when my Panasonic plasma bit the dust. That was a commercial display that didn’t have speakers or a tuner. I could have added a tuner, or even an embedded PC through the use of expansion cards, but just loaded it up with HDMI cards.

0 Likes

#18

Is there much difference these days between a “tv” and a computer display - aside from displays not having speakers and tuners etc…? The actual panels? Are they designed with different refresh rates etc?

0 Likes

#19

Wow. Mine flashes the Samsung logo as it turns on and that it. I do recall that the ‘smart’ stuff would take a little while to load, but only if you used it, not just turning the TV on. What brand/model is yours there?

0 Likes

#20

Not a whole hell of a lot of options in the 55"+ side range when it comes to computer monitors, for starters…

0 Likes

#21

Mine’s a Hisense, but the Sony and Panasonic sets at work are just as bad. Look, I know 30-40 seconds isn’t much in the grand scheme of things, but if I’m outlaying a decent wad of cash I’d prefer to not go backwards in terms of functionality and user experience.
I got the Hisense because the 4K media I took to the store on a USB looked best on it (checked each set I was interested in to ensure on default settings and not ‘shop mode’) but as it happens the 4K HDMI ports have developed a fault so now it’s just upscaling 1080 media anyway.

0 Likes