Have you recently bought a smart TV but aren't sure if it has a hidden camera?
Many newer smart TVs may contain cameras for features such as facial recognition, but they're not necessarily hidden. Most mainstream brands like LG smart TVs and Samsung smart TVs list all included cameras and microphones on the owner's manual.
However, suppose you bought a secondhand TV or those from relatively unknown brands. In that case, spotting any hidden cameras in the smart TV is in your best interest.
Read below and learn how to spot and disable any hidden cameras on your TV.
Spotting Hidden Cameras on Smart TVs
The owner's manual lists all built-in cameras on a smart TV.
You typically don't need to worry about hidden cameras spying on you if you buy smart TVs from legitimate stores. Any cameras and microphones in your smart TV are listed in the included owner's manual. It points out how many cameras and microphones are included and where each is located. Of course, only some smart TVs come with a camera, so ask around before buying one.
However, spotting hidden cameras in secondhand smart TVs or those without a manual is different.
Cameras in smart TVs are usually located at the upper edge of the TV bezel. You can identify hidden cameras by looking for a small reflective circle, which is the camera's lens. A good tip is to shine a flashlight on the TV bezels. Hidden cameras reflect the light to you, making it easier to spot.
Camera microphones are usually located next to the camera.
Many people struggle to spot a camera's microphone since it looks like a pinhole-sized opening. If the microphone is not near the camera, it is typically on the bottom left or right of the TV. As with spotting cameras, you can also use the flashlight to look for hidden camera microphones by shining a light on them. It should look like a small black dot on the surface of the TV bezels.
The most difficult smart TV camera to spot is the one with retractable lenses.
You can't usually spot this built-in camera using the same flashlight trick. Instead, run your fingers along the edges and bezels of the TVs. You can locate the camera by feeling around for an insert - usually a small depression or bump along the edges.
Can Hidden Cameras Record You Without Permission?
Smart TVs with functions like facial recognition often use hidden cameras to record you.
Modern TVs like Samsung smart TVs and LG smart TVs often use hidden cameras for various additional functions. One of these is facial recognition software that automatically unlocks the TV when camera smart TVs spot your face. When you turn on these functions, you're allowing the TV to record you constantly.
Wait a moment; what if you don't turn those functions on? Can smart TVs still record you?
The short answer to this is yes. Many smart TVs collect data about what you watch using automatic content recognition or ACR. You stop all data collection by disconnecting the set from the internet; you can turn off ACR. You might be experiencing automatic content recognition when the TV identifies the content you watch and shows tailored advertisements. This function is used by brands like Samsung smart TVs and LG smart TVs. An example of this is when you express interest in a certain show, and a Samsung smart camera records this. You might see an increase in ads about that show.
Smart TVs record data in three primary ways: through ACR technology, cameras, or a combination of camera microphones.
It is important to know which method your TV is using to record you to prevent this. You can often identify which one by scrolling through the settings and preferences. You can turn this off with a quick press of the button remote control. However, some manufacturers may make recording the user mandatory under the terms and agreement.
What Types of Data do Smart TVs Record?
A Samsung smart camera doesn't actively record whatever it sees you doing. Instead, such smart TV cameras are after a specific type of data.
Smart TVs record large amounts of data to improve your comfort when watching. It suggests new shows and streaming services that fit your data profile. This data can also be sold to companies like amazon services LLC associates for target advertising. These events often occur in smart TVs with automatic content recognition ACR.
Even larger data recorded by cameras and microphones are processed when smart TVs are connected to the internet.
Data recorded by the ACR automatic content recognition is used to create your digital profile. This digital profile contains data on your demographic such as age, gender, ethnicity, and IP address. This data is shared among the various streaming services, apps, google play store, and other applications you use - even among online sites.
You may be unknowingly agreeing to let companies create a digital profile. Digital profiles are often created under the pretense of improving user experience. Many smart TV users unknowingly agree to this when they go through the initial settings set-up.
Companies can sneakily turn on ACR functions by default or place them under their terms and agreement. In the case of the former, if you don't manually turn off the ACR function in your camera Samsung smart or whichever smart TV, then you're permitting companies to spy on you. However, the problem lies in companies placing it under the terms and conditions. In those cases, you cannot use the smart TV if you disagree with letting them collect data.
Fortunately, there are better ways of protecting yourself than just turning it off through the button remote control.
How to Stop Smart Tvs from Recording You
The FBI and black hat security conference created a list of possible actions you can do to prevent smart TVs from recording you.
Research the Features of your Smart TV Model
Always read through the basic features before selecting a smart TV model.
You can easily find product descriptions for most smart TV models. These descriptions typically contain a bullet list of the TV parts, including if it comes with camera microphones and, if yes, how many. You can quicken your research by mentioning specific words like "camera," "microphone," and smart TV model.
Remember that you may need help researching smart TVs outside of famous brands. In those cases, it might be better to buy the smart TV at a physical store and ask the staff for more details about it.
Don't Rush Through the Set-Up Settings
Think twice before rushing through the start-up settings of your smart TVs.
As time-consuming as it may be, take the time to read through the start-up settings. You can prevent the smart TV from recording you by crossing out a few settings. Disable any preferences that allow the TV to record and monitor your usage.
Disable the Camera and Microphone
A simple and effective way of disabling smart TV cameras is by physically blocking them.
Get a piece of black or any opaque tape and cover the camera. This will prevent the camera from recording. Many people avoid doing this for fear of damaging the camera, but this method has many variations.
A good alternative is to cut out a piece of paper and stick it onto tape. Center the paper to the camera, then stick it on the tape. The paper will prevent any sticky residue from getting onto the camera while preventing it from recording you.
While blocking the camera only requires tape and paper, it can be tricky to plug in a microphone. It is possible to muffle any recorded sound using tape to block camera microphones. Still, it's not a foolproof solution.
In this case, your best bet is to disable the microphone through the TV settings. Use the remote control button to access the settings and explore each tab until you find the camera and microphone settings.
Disable all settings that allow the TV to record you using the camera and microphone. It will automatically stop any future recording and data collection. However, note that it will not remove any past data profile formed by the ACR.
Get Cybersecurity Apps and Software
If you can't turn off the user recording on the settings of your TV, then you might need to use 3rd party apps and software to stop it.
Your IP address is a smart TV's most important yet easily obtainable data point. An IP address is a unique code of your device that allows internet sites to find your current location. When you connect your TV to the internet, you allow various sites and services to find where you're viewing them from.
A virtual private network VPN is the easiest way to hide your IP address.
A VPN hides your IP address by rerouting it to servers in various parts of the world. For example, a VPN can trick a website into thinking that you're in London when you're actually in New York. This disarrays the data profile created by ACRs and prevents them from obtaining precious information about you.
Take note that most virtual private network VPN is not free. You may need to purchase a monthly or weekly subscription to use one. So, try all other methods first before paying for VPN software.