There's a strong likelihood that since Black Friday, the number of televisions in your household or someone you know's has increased. Smart TVs have brought about huge changes in how we consume media, and we're largely happy with it all (streaming service costs and planned obsolescence aside). Some changes aren't immediately obvious to us, though — and they can include some pretty serious breaches of privacy.
Last week, the FBI's Portland, Oregon, field office released a list of reminders and tips about smart TV capabilities. The same technology that allows account synching and video chats is also wide open for hackers. "At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos," the office writes. "In a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV's camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you."
Freaked out yet? "A bad cyber actor may not be able to access your locked-down computer directly, but it is possible that your unsecured TV can give him or her an easy way in the backdoor through your router." Even worse, however, is what we agree to during setup: Earlier this fall, the Washington Post laid out all the ways in which companies literally snoop on us while we binge our favorite comfort shows.
It's not pretty, but don't panic about the electronics store's return policy. If you're really worried, you can put some black electrical tape over your TV's front-facing camera. The FBI also recommends keeping your TV's software up to date, as well as skimming its owner's manual, to know more about what your favorite new device can do.