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Online Ads May Soon Start to Follow You on Your TV

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Nov 15
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The new Federal Communications Commission has a goal of enabling large companies to make more profits and removing any consumer privacy safeguards still left in place. Led by Ajit Pai, the FCC is set to approve new rules this Thursday that are designed to enable television broadcasters to collect data about viewing habits. The same targeted ads that we see online will now stalk us on local television networks and experts warn they come with even fewer data protections.

Ads will start stalking you on local TV as well – FCC is set to approve “Next Gen TV”

While some may argue that since the online companies like Google and Facebook are already doing that why shouldn’t the TV networks? Privacy advocates suggest that the FCC’s latest efforts that allow corporations to own both a TV station and a newspaper and major companies to merge in the same market would heavily affect consumers and – unlike online platforms – will reduce the number of independent voices on air.

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“We’ll know where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing – just like you do now, just like everybody does now, the internet does, or Google, or a Facebook,” David Smith, Sinclair Executive Chairman told investors last week.

“We will have perfect data all the time.”

Calling it the Next Gen TV, the new technology will enable broadcasters to collect data about viewing habits. However the proposal set by the Commission doesn’t mention privacy protections of that data collection.

“If the new standard allows broadcasters to collect data in a way they haven’t before, I think consumers should know about that,” Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, said. “What privacy protections will apply to that data, and what security protections?”

According to Bloomberg, the latest proposal is being approved in parallel with the $3.9 billion deal by Sinclair that gives the broadcasting company an access to more than 70 percent of all US households. “Once you have that big of a news presence, it opens up a lot of avenues for new models to be explored,” Smith said.

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“Sinclair will have 233 stations if its merger with Tribune Media Co. is approved by antitrust regulators,” Bloomberg reports.

“It also has formed a partnership to share airwaves with Nexstar Media Group Inc.’s 170 stations. Private-equity owned Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Holdings Inc. also has joined the alliance, which Sinclair says covers 92 percent of the country. The Maryland-based broadcaster also holds potentially lucrative patents on the technology and is still assessing the revenue. Cable providers, TV manufacturers and broadcasters using the system may have to pay Sinclair royalties.”

TVs already show a lot of advertisements and when the online platforms – like videos on the Facebook – first started showing ads, users didn’t like the idea but ultimately were okay with it (or really had no other choice). But while users have the luxury of ad blockers online, the same won’t be true on TV.

The new Next Gen TV also potentially creates more data security issues and the possibility of big, unaccountable networks collating data from both the TV and online media to have even more accurate profiles of their audience with no expected data transparency, privacy protections, or feature rollbacks that are demanded or expected of the major online platforms (Apple recently came under fire of advertisers for “destroying the internet’s economic model” through its Safari 11 tracking protections).

“The FCC has placed Americans who watch TV and online video at grave risk when it comes to their privacy,” Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said. “With the FCC further weakening safeguards designed to promote competition and diversity of ownership, they are turning control of our data to fewer unaccountable corporations.”

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