Roku Streaming Sticks

Warning: *privacy not included with this product

Roku Streaming Sticks

Roku
Wi-Fi Bluetooth

Review date: Nov. 8, 2021

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Super creepy

Roku is the streaming TV device company that focuses solely on streaming TV. From their streaming sticks to connected soundbars to their Roku TVs, they give you lots of "channels" in their app store—everything from standards like Netflix and Hulu, to YuppTV for those can't miss south Asian channels and FunimationNow for the anime lovers. News, weather, sports, classic cartoons, Bollywood HD and Pokémon TV. Roku has something for everyone. They also seem to collect lots of data so they can target ads for everyone too.

What could happen if something goes wrong?

Roku is like the nosy, gossipy neighbor of connected devices. They track just about everything they can. And then they share that data with lots of people. According to Roku's privacy policy, they share your personal data with advertisers to show you targeted ads and create profiles about you over time and across different services and devices. Roku also gives advertisers detailed data about your interactions with advertisements, your demographic data, and audience segment. Roku shares viewing data with measurement providers who may target you with ads. Roku may share your personal information with third parties for their own marketing purposes.

Roku’s data sharing is vast, which is, unfortunately, too common in the streaming TV space. Automatic Content Recognition or ACR is the way Roku and others try to identify every show you watch whether it be streaming, cable, broadcast on an antenna, or even the DVDs you watch. They collect all this data to target you with new shows, and allow you to be targeted with lots of ads from lots of places. It’s a lot of data collection and you should opt out. Note when you opt out of ACR, a Roku spokewoman said, “Opting out of ACR does not affect collection of information about the use of Roku streaming channels.” So yeah, they’re still collecting data on you, just a little less. Consumer Reports also recommends you take the time to do things like opt out of allowing Roku to access the microphone on your Roku remote control or your mobile device for voice-activated features.

All in all, Roku collects a lot of data and uses that data to sell a lot of ads and target a lot of content your way. Is this the end of the world for your privacy? Not likely, but the use of ACR and such to collect as much data on you as they possibly can feels kinda gross. We warn this product likely comes with *privacy not included.

Tips to protect yourself

mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: No

App: No

Microphone

Device: Yes

App: Yes

Tracks location

Device: Yes

App: Yes

What can be used to sign up?

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

Roku shares your personal data with advertisers to show you targeted ads and create profiles about you over time and across different services and devices. Roku also gives advertisers detailed data about your interactions with advertisements, your demographic data, and audience segment. Roku shares viewing data with measurement providers who may target you with ads. Roku shares aggregated data with third-party channels about how you use their channels. Roku may share your personal information with third parties for their own marketing purposes.

How can you control your data?

You can request that data be deleted. However, Roku says, "we may decline requests that are unreasonable, prohibited by law, or are not required to be honored by applicable law."

You can ask Roku to stop personalizing your ads, and to limit ad tracking in your Settings. Your opt-outs are device specific and do not carry over to other Roku devices or browsers. You have to opt-out for each individual device and browser you are using.

What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?

Average

No known incidents in the last 3 years.

Can this product be used offline?

No

User-friendly privacy information?

No

Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information

Yes

Encryption

Yes

Strong password

Yes

There is a password for a Roku account but no password is required to use a Roku device once it’s set up.

Security updates

Yes

Manages vulnerabilities

Yes

Privacy policy

Yes

Does the product use AI? information

Yes

Is this AI untrustworthy?

Can’t Determine

What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?

Roku uses Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) to track what you are watching on TV. They use this information to help advertisers target you more accurately. You can disable this feature, but it is on by default.

Is the company transparent about how the AI works?

Can’t Determine

Does the user have control over the AI features?

Yes


News

How to Turn Off Smart TV Snooping Features
Consumer Reports
Your TV may know—and share—a lot of information about you. That’s what CR has found repeatedly in recent years, including during a 2018 analysis of privacy and security in smart TVs from LG, Samsung, Sony, TCL (which uses the Roku TV smart TV platform), and Vizio.
The FBI just issued a warning about the risks of owning a smart TV — here are its suggestions for protecting your privacy
Insider
If you own a smart TV — or recently purchased one for the holidays — it's time to acquaint yourself with the risks associated with the devices, according to a new warning issued by the FBI.
A Thumbs Down for Streaming Privacy
New York Times
The streaming apps and devices we pay for aren’t necessarily careful with our personal information.
How to make your smart TV a little dumb (and why you should)
Mashable
Your smart tv is spying on you. Here's how to stop it.
Yes, your smart TV is spying on you – Here’s how to stop it
Komando.com
In return for an always-connected experience, smart TVs collect data on users — a lot of it.
Standard Privacy Report for Roku
Common Sense
The terms of Roku say they sell users' information to third parties and use personal information to display targeted advertisements and send third-party marketing to users.
Roku leaves rivals in dust – claiming machine learning breakthrough
ReTHINK
Roku blew away its numbers in style as the US streaming company surpassed 30 million active users in Q2 2019 – comprehensively extending its native dominance in the connected TV space. But while Roku’s second quarter results are a milestone for the company, they also signify significant tailwinds in a broader field – advertising.
Samsung and Roku Smart TVs Vulnerable to Hacking, Consumer Reports Finds
Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports has found that millions of smart TVs can be controlled by hackers exploiting easy-to-find security flaws. The problems affect Samsung televisions, along with models made by TCL and other brands that use the Roku TV smart-TV platform, as well as streaming devices such as the Roku Ultra.
Roku is in the ad business, not the hardware business, says CEO
The Verge
Roku sells more dedicated streaming devices than perhaps any other company in the world. It’s been estimated that there are more Rokus in US households than there are Fire TVs, Chromecasts, or Apple TVs. (Amazon strongly disagrees, but has never shared any sales numbers.) But here’s something that might surprise you: the money that Roku makes from its hardware lineup isn’t enough to sustain the company’s business.
Cheatsheet: Roku expects to make $1 billion in revenue this year
Digiday
Roku’s advertising business continues to grow, and so does its control over the ads running on its connected TV platform. In the fourth quarter of 2018, Roku’s platform revenue — which includes advertising revenue — continued to exceed revenue from the sale of devices running Roku’s connected TV platform, which Roku categorizes as “player revenue.”

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