Millions of Chinese Smart TVs Scanned WiFi Every 10 Minutes, Sent Personal Data to Company

Millions of Chinese smart TVs were scanning users WiFi and sending personal data to a data analytics company.

According to the South China Morning Post, a user of the Chinese developer forum V2EX published a post last week detailing that his Skyworth smart TV was scanning data every 10 minutes and gathered information such as the WiFi network the TV was connected to, the user's IP address, device names and network latency.

"I felt that the TV was a bit slow before, and I looked at what background services were turned on. I found that there is something called "GoZheng Data Service," and I don't know what it is," the user wrote on the developer forum V2EX.

"The TV is an Android system. I researched the packet and found that this thing scans my family's connected devices every 10 minutes, and sends back the hostname, mac, ip and even the network delay time. It also detects the surrounding wifi SSID names, The mac address is also packaged and sent to this domain name of gz-data.com."

As the user's post noted, the data collected was being sent to the Beijing-based firm Gozen Data, which is a data analytics company that collects TV viewership data.

The Gozen Data website, gz-data.com, states that its data collection service operates in 149 million households, 140 million smart TVs and covers 457 million Chinese residents. The data analytics firm has been working with smart TV manufacturers since 2014. It is unclear if Gozen Data operates on any smart TVs sold in the U.S.

Shortly after the post on the V2EX forum gained traction, the smart TV manufacturer and Gozen Data faced backlash, with users accusing the two of spying on them.

In response to the criticism, Skyworth and Gozen Data issued statements apologizing for the issue.

According to the South China Morning Post, in a post to its WeChat account, Gozen wrote that it has collected data for viewership purposes, including "television ratings for households and individuals, viewership analysis, advertising analysis and optimization."

Gozen also apologized and said the company will "improve our user privacy policy and ensure we are collecting information with users' consent and within the scope of legal compliance." Gozen published a separate web page to outline 21 different data types that it collects from users.

In a statement sent to the South China Morning Post, Skyworth wrote: "Data security and user privacy are our highest priorities ... we will continue to safeguard our users' privacy, data, rights and interests." According to the Post, the statement also noted that Skyworth's TVs sold in Hong Kong were never pre-installed with the Gozen Data application.

Newsweek reached out to Skyworth for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Smart TV
Millions of Chinese smart TVs were scanning users WiFi and sending personal data to a data analytics company. In the photo. a visitor looks at a display of Smart TV televisions at the Thomson stand at the IFA 2011 consumer electonics and appliances trade fair on the first day of the fair's official opening on September 2, 2011, in Berlin, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty