People stream content on theirthe whole time. This is one of the best ways for the whole family to watch your favorite shows and movies as , and . But of , , and have a disadvantage: Their software platforms are often behind the scenes.
Each majorstreaming platform captures your viewing data. Manufacturers of software and hardware — from your new power stick to your TV itself — use that data to “improve” the products and services they offer, for example by adjusting program recommendations and the ads they show you. Although potentially frustrating, advertising helps keep the price down when buying new .
While we have covered beforeitself, for this story we reviewed all the latest software on streaming devices from Amazon, Roku, Google and Apple.
Here’s what we found and what you can do about it on your respective new streaming players.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Amazon told CNET that it collects limited information about customers’ use of third-party apps on Fire TV. “We collect data about the frequency and duration of app use on Fire TV (ie, when a customer opens or closes an app), which helps with service and device improvements. We do not collect information about what customers watch in third-party apps on Fire TV.”
Here’s how you limit the amount of data Fire TV collects. All settings can be found by na Institutionsthen Preferences, then Privacy settings.
- Choose Device Usage Data and turn off this setting.
- Go to Collect Program Usage Data and turn off this setting.
- Choose Interest-based advertising and turn off this setting.
Now your Amazon Fire TV device will not be able to track your data for marketing purposes or look at the frequency and duration of your use of downloaded apps. It also won’t give you targeted ads, but it will still have ads. For more details see Amazon’s Privacy Settings FAQ.
Google Chromecast with Google TV
The data collected includes terms you search for, videos you watch, views and interactions with content and ads, voice and audio information when you use audio features, purchase activity, people you interact with or share content with, activity on third-party sites and programs that use our services.
Google says that Google Chromecast as a platform does not perform ACR or monitor what specific content users are watching.
Here’s how to control data on the Google Chromecast with Google TV.
- Go to Institutions and scroll down to the section marked Privacy. There you can access settings for location, usage and diagnostics and advertising. There are also sections for account settings that include Google Assistant as well as payment and purchases. Finally, the app settings section has where you can control app permissions, special app access, and security and restrictions.
- Click Usage and diagnostics and make sure the tab is turned off. This means that you no longer send diagnostic information to Google.
- Click Advertisementsand Opting out of ad personalizationto prevent apps from using your ID to build personalized advertising profiles.
- Check to manage other data Google has about you, such as YouTube and search history and web and activity data myactivity.google.com.
Roku says it shares data with advertisers “including ads you view within Roku’s channels and third-party channels, as well as ads embedded in content you view through your Roku TV’s antenna and connected devices.”
Here’s what you need to do to limit or disable some of the tracking.
- From the main Roku menu, open Institutions and go to Privacy.
- For Advertisementsmake sure that the box Limit ad tracking be checked. This prevents Roku from personalizing ads and sharing viewing data from streaming channels for measurement purposes. Roku will let channel providers know that you prefer not to have personalized ads, but according to Roku, it’s up to the providers whether or not they honor your preference. Similarly, “Limit Ad Tracking” will not stop individual channels, such as Hulu or Netflix, from collecting their own data about your usage or passing that information on to other parties.
- For those Roku devices that come with a built-in microphone in the remote, you can go to Microphone and then Channel microphone access to choose how a channel accesses the microphone. You can always give them access, never give them access, or pop up a message asking for permission to access the microphone. The Channel Permissions button allows you to manage the permissions for each individual channel.
It also states that the company does share information with partners who “work with Apple to provide our products and services, help Apple market to customers, and sell advertising on Apple’s behalf to display in the App Store and Apple News and Stocks.” ”
But unlike the others on this list, Apple always asks if you want individual apps to track your usage the first time you use them. You can prevent each app from seeing your data by clicking no each time it pops up.
And Apple has a few more privacy settings you can change. Here’s how to find them:
First, you need to find and click the button settings icon. Touch the General tabthen scroll down to Privacy. The Privacy menu includes Location Services, Tracking, Photos, Bluetooth, HomeKit, Media and Apple Music as well as Apple TV users.
- Click on Tracking and make sure that Allow apps to ask to track is On.
- Go back to the Privacy menu. You will see a separate section called Analysis and improvements.
- Alter Share Apple TV Analytics on Off.
- Alter Improve Siri and Dictation on Off.
You have now restricted Apple from tracking your analytics and using your data to improve Siri or dictation.
Correction, July 15: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that these streaming devices use automatic content recognition, which is software that recognizes the images on your TV. None of these four platforms use ACR on streaming devices, although some smart TVs using these platforms do use ACR.