Is your DIRECTV receiver spying on you?

Well kinda yeah but not a lot.

I mean, if you’re incredibly paranoid you should know that DIRECTV receivers, just like most connected devices, collect a lot of information about how they’re used. That can include key presses, your viewing patterns, and really any way you interact with it.

This is certainly not limited to DIRECTV and the company doesn’t hide the fact. Their customer agreement says,

We collect personally identifiable information about our customers (“Personal Data”). The use and disclosure of this Personal Data is governed by our Privacy Policy and, to the extent not inconsistent with the Privacy Policy, by this Agreement. A copy of our Privacy Policy is available at directv.com. We will also send you a copy if you send your written request to this address: DIRECTV Privacy Policy, P.O. Box 6550, Greenwood Village, CO 80155-6550.

and they have a detailed privacy policy available here. Whenever possible, they try to “anonymize” the information they collect, in other words not tie it to you specifically but use it with a bunch of other information from other people. There are some cases, like helping the DVR calculate suggestions, where your private information is stored somewhere that generally people don’t look. Only the computers really use it. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get. You can opt out of most data gathering fairly easily at DIRECTV.com if it concerns you.

But this sort of data gathering is routine and in the opinion of most people, harmless. In the past, consumer electronics companies have been accused of out-and-out spying, the worst in recent memory being the case where Samsung Smart TVs with cameras and microphones were sending personal information, audio and video feeds to a server even when the TV had no reason to be collecting that information. The recordings were automatically recognized and text translations were kept on servers without any form of encryption. DIRECTV doesn’t do that. They don’t listen to your discussions, and DIRECTV equipment doesn’t even have a camera on it. Simple as that.

Personally, I think that the discussions we have about privacy and encryption are some of the most important ones we can have right now. We’re on the very first steps of a long road with our relationship with a global network, and most lawmakers simply don’t understand the possibilities inherent in gathering and storing personal information. Honestly, I believe that it will be 30 or 40 years before we really understand the impact of the Internet on our lives and in the meantime I think we all have to be very careful not to give up on some of our fundamental privacy provisions in order to simply be able to watch reality TV.

So, while DIRECTV isn’t the enemy here, and I genuinely believe they are doing everything possible to safeguard your data (and not even collect it if it isn’t necessary) that isn’t always true of other companies. Choose your business partners well, and always think about what you’re willing to give up. Above all, yes I know it’s a drag but read all that stuff they send you. There’s a lot of information there.