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LG Snooping Allegedly Extends Out To Home Network

By - Source: Ars Technica | B 22 comments

Shared files on a network are also supposedly spied on by LG Smart TVs.

Hot on the heels of LG confirming that it’s investigating an allegation that its Smart TVs share sensitive user information unencrypted, a second blogger has emerged with even more seemingly damning evidence: that these Smart TVs also report files that are shared on the local network, files that are not physically accessed by the HDTV via USB.

“I was seeing the same requests DoctorBeet was seeing when it was logging his media from a USB mounted drive, except I had no USB mounted drive plugged in.  It turns out it was pulling filenames from my shared folders over the network and broadcasting those instead,” the blogger writes.

Whoa.

As previously reported, Jason “DoctorBeet” Huntley, a 45-year-old IT consultant in the UK and LG Smart TV owner, came across a corporate video that detailed LG’s data collection practices, and decided to switch off a specific data collection feature on his Smart TV. But he then realized, by monitoring internet traffic to and from the device, that information was still being sent unencrypted to LG servers. He even discovered that LG keeps track of video and audio files stored on a connected external drive.

This second blogger, listed as "Mark", assumes that his own LG Smart TV -- model number 42ls570 and purchased in April – uses a different firmware than DoctorBeet’s, as there is no option to disable logging of TV watching. Regardless, he set up a laptop to serve as a “middlebox” to see what kind of traffic transpired between LG and his TV set. First thing he noticed was authentication to the LG server, and a request to deauthorize the session when the TV is turned off or goes into standby mode.

Once he saw that the TV was logging media not shared on a USB drive, he verified the logging by pulling all files out of the shared folder, and throwing in a few "duds" with porn-related names. He then turned the TV off and then back on. "It was still broadcasting the old filenames.  The TV couldn’t see those files whilst browsing manually so I’d hazard a guess it’s caching some of these locally.  It didn’t take long though to pick up the new ones," he writes.

"Now the clear problem I see with this is even if I did agree to this in any T&Cs presented to me, I doubt guests I have round using my WIFI connection would be too happy with filenames from their shared media being dispatched to LG," the blogger adds. "Personally I’m not too happy that files you assume aren’t leaving the network are having their names broadcasted to LG, even worse so that it’s unencrypted."

Should LG be allowed to see files stored in a shared folder on the network? Should the company be able to see the media you watch even when they’re merely located on a connected USB drive? No. The Smart TV you purchase is your property, and your personal files should not be covered under whatever Terms and Conditions the company cooks up.

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  • 1 Hide
    mrmike_49 , November 21, 2013 1:45 PM
    keep your tv off the network except once in a while to d/l software updates - use your smart dvd player OR your computer to Netflix
  • 1 Hide
    elmo2006 , November 21, 2013 1:54 PM
    This is just bad karma LG!
  • 0 Hide
    clonazepam , November 21, 2013 1:58 PM
    "use your smart dvd player" - guess what's up next...
  • 1 Hide
    ddpruitt , November 21, 2013 2:25 PM
    I'm never buying an LG again. Claiming T and Cs is total BS, I've know more than one lawyer who says they don't understand T and Cs and they don't make any sense. That's a total copout, my guess is some manager who never dealt with one of the people using their TVs came up with this lame excuse. This can't even be "accidental". You have to put some serious effort into searching for that type of info.
  • -1 Hide
    punahou1 , November 21, 2013 2:33 PM
    Its premature to say "I'm never buying an LG again". Most likely they will get a lot of backlash from this and fix the situation. They will have a difficult time in the event sold units cannot be fixed through firmware updates...
  • 0 Hide
    leoscott , November 21, 2013 2:37 PM
    Sell your LG stock. I hear a large decline is sales as this goes forward.
  • 1 Hide
    leoscott , November 21, 2013 2:39 PM
    It's not premature. This type of arrogance on LG's part needs to be punished in the marketplace.
  • 1 Hide
    Achoo22 , November 21, 2013 3:56 PM
    punahou1 said, "They will have a difficult time in the event sold units cannot be fixed through firmware updates..."

    Having to offer white-glove replacement of all affected devices, including sending a tech to rewire, etc, would still be less punishment than they deserve.
  • 0 Hide
    LL928 , November 21, 2013 6:48 PM
    I wonder how many other entertainment devices are doing the same thing. Samsung smart TV's also have a targeted ad system, so they must be collecting user data too. It seems that the advertising industry is one of the worst culprits in eroding privacy.
  • 0 Hide
    NewbieTechGodII , November 21, 2013 7:37 PM
    Looks like I've added a new company to boycott. Ever since their rootkit controversy, I have avoided EVERYTHING and ANYTHING from Sony. Sad.
  • 2 Hide
    nitrium , November 21, 2013 10:07 PM
    The "I got nothing to hide" folks just keep on believing. Unfortunately, for us, when they finally wake up it will already be too late. The tragedy is they are taking everyone with more than two brain-cells to rub together with them to the abyss.
  • 1 Hide
    f-14 , November 21, 2013 11:56 PM
    The law cannot save those who deny it but neither can the law serve any who do not use it. The history of injustice and inequality is a history of disuse of the law. Law has not failed--and is not failing. We as a nation have failed ourselves by not trusting the law and by not using the law to gain sooner the ends of justice which law alone serves.
    ~ Lyndon B. Johnson ~
  • 0 Hide
    lormanet , November 22, 2013 3:36 AM
    Samsung AllShare software probably does the same thing. How about Android-based smart TVs?
  • 1 Hide
    Parrdacc , November 22, 2013 6:59 AM
    *metadata* is the new tag line for spying. "Its just metadata." Cause they will assume, and be right, that most people have no idea what metadata is and how it can be used; and by down playing 'metadata' as just being misc info of no real consequence they hope to convince the unknowing that it is no big deal if anyone collects it.

    One problem though. They fail to take into consideration the principle behind collecting something most, at least that I know, consider private and then add to the fact they never disclose that they are actively collecting makes it even more unacceptable.
  • 0 Hide
    skit75 , November 22, 2013 1:07 PM
    LG's biggest issue is not that they are collecting your data on the smart TV.... it is that the switch in the settings to turn it off, actually does nothing.
    People buying Smart devices or hardware hooked up to the internet need to realize that this has more benefit to the manufacturer and its 3rd party vendors, than it does for the end-user.
    You are buying advertiser subsidized hardware while simultaneously being cut out of the discount loop.
  • 1 Hide
    gahelm1 , November 22, 2013 1:15 PM
    LG just released new firmware for my TV yesterday (11/21/13). Anyone know if this addresses the network snooping issue? I installed it but I have no way to tell if it eliminates the privacy issue or not.
    New Firmware version is 6.00.01, previous version was 5.XX.XX. TV is a 55LM6700.
  • 0 Hide
    gahelm1 , November 22, 2013 1:20 PM
    LG just released new firmware for my TV yesterday (11/21/13). Anyone know if this addresses the network snooping issue? I installed it but I have no way to tell if it eliminates the privacy issue or not.
    New Firmware version is 6.00.01, previous version was 5.XX.XX. TV is a 55LM6700.
  • 0 Hide
    NewbieTechGodII , November 22, 2013 1:51 PM
    Which LG TVs does this apply to? Date of Manufacture, Model, etc.
  • 0 Hide
    Shin-san , November 24, 2013 6:32 AM
    This is probably what happened at LG:

    Developer: "People aren't going to like getting spied on"
    Manager: "But marketing wants this"
    Developer: "You are making a mistake"
    Manager: "Look. Do you want to keep your well-paying job?"
  • 0 Hide
    rberger , November 24, 2013 12:59 PM
    Does anyone still believe that any device connected to the internet DOES NOT capture and transmit personal information about us? Come on, people! We have reason to be paranoid!
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