Just when we thought that only our smartphones and virtual assistants keep track of our activities, a new study pops up. The research suggests that the popular over-the-top services we use to watch web content we like, track us, and keep an eye on us while we keep ours on them.
Yes, OTT Services Track Us!
The study was conducted by researchers at Princeton University and the University of Chicago. Among the various OTT services, Roku and Amazon Fire TV track users and extract the user data. Thus, affecting the numerous internet-connected smart TVs.
OTT Services come equipped with data trackers; while 69% of Roku channels have trackers, Amazon Fire TV has 89% of its channels injected with trackers. The OTT services were found contacting around 60 tracking domains for data sharing.
These services heavily rely on behavioral advertising for monetization and collect user data such as device IDs, serial numbers, WiFi MAC addresses, and SSIDs. The data also includes microphone input, viewing history, and personal information of users.
Apart from targeted advertising, the data can be provided to various app developers, thus, contributing to an act of data breach.
Furthermore, it was discovered that the local remote control APIs for OTT services are prone to a glitch. The flaw extracts users’ location, retrieves installed channels, installs new channels, and access device identifiers.
How Researchers Figured This Out?
The research paper suggests that the researchers involved in the study developed an automated system. The bot loaded 1000 channels on Roku and Amazon Fire TV each, and collected channel information from the OTT channel stores.
The automated crawler exhibited human behavior and monitored the tracking capabilities of OTT services by going through all the channels like an actual user.
The process was followed by interacting with the channels and using video playback, much like a human would do.
Following the process of collecting network data and intercepting encrypted communications, the crawlers received the raw data and processed the data collected.
You can view the detailed study from over here.
While the study confirms that OTT services collect user data, there is no word on what all other such services are involved in the deed.
This is Deja Vu for Amazon!
For those who don’t know, Amazon has previously been caught up in a similar situation wherein its smart assistant Alexa was found listening to user data.
Following the news spreading like wildfire, Amazon decided to change its privacy settings and tried being more user-friendly.