Streaming Devices from Roku† Google Chromecast† Amazon Fire Stick and Apple TV are an easy and inexpensive way to watch content from your favorite streaming serviceslike Netflix† hulu and HBO Max† Unfortunately, connecting one of these little rods or boxes in your TV has a downside: their software platforms often look at what you’re watching and follow it from behind the scenes†
any major Smart TV streaming platform records your viewing data. Software and hardware makers — from your new streaming stick to you TV itself — use that data to “improve” the products and services they offer, for example by tailoring show recommendations and the ads they show you. While that might be frustrating, ads help keep the price down when you buy a new one streaming stick†
One tracking tool is called automatic content recognition, which is software that recognizes the images on your TV. ACR works whether the images come through an app or an HDMI port such as a cable box, Xbox or play station† The good news is you can turn it off.
While we have previously covered this for the TVs themselvesfor this story, we’ve looked at 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
According to Amazon, the company uses this data to “develop and improve products and features, understand how products are used, assess customer engagement, identify potential quality issues, analyze our business, and tailor marketing offers.”
The exact data that is logged varies by app and service.
Here’s how to take back control. All settings can be found by going to . to go Settingsthen preferences, then Privacy settings†
- To elect Device usage data and disable this setting.
- Go to Collect App usage data and disable this setting.
- Select Interest-Based Ads and disable this setting.
Now your Amazon Fire TV device cannot track your data for marketing purposes or view the frequency and duration of your usage of downloaded apps. It will also not give you targeted ads, but it will still contain ads.
Google Chromecast with Google TV
Information collected includes terms you search for, videos you watch, views and interactions with content and ads, speech and audio information when you use audio features, purchase activity, people you interact with or share content with, activity on third-party sites and apps that use our services.
Google says that Google Chromecast as a platform does not perform ACR or monitor what specific content users view.
Here’s how to manage data on the Google Chromecast with Google TV.
- go to Settings and scroll down to the section labeled Privacy† There you have access to settings for Location, Usage and Diagnostics and Ads. There are also account settings sections that include Google Assistant, as well as Payments and Purchases. Finally, the app settings section has where you can manage app permissions, special app access, and security and restrictions.
- Click Usage and Diagnostics and make sure that tab is disabled. This means that you will no longer send diagnostic information to Google.
- Click Adsand Opt Out of Ads Personalizationto prevent apps from using your ID to create personalized advertising profiles.
- To manage other data that Google has about you, such as YouTube and search history and web and activity data, go to myactivity.google.com†
Roku says it shares data with advertisers “including ads you watch within Roku’s and third-party channels, as well as ads embedded in content you watch through the antenna of your Roku TV and connected devices.”
Here’s what you need to do to limit or disable some of the tracking.
- Open from Roku .’s main menu Settings and go to Privacy†
- In front of To advertisemake sure the box Limit Ad Tracking has been checked. This prevents Roku from personalizing ads and sharing streaming channel display data for measurements. Roku tells channel providers that you’d rather not have personalized ads, but according to Roku, it’s up to the providers whether they respect your preference or not. Likewise, “Limit Ad Tracking” will not prevent 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, 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 get a prompt popup and ask permission to access the microphone. The Channel Permissions button allows you to manage permissions for each individual channel.
It also states that the company shares certain information with partners who “work with Apple to provide our products and services, help Apple market to customers, and sell ads on behalf of Apple for 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 when you first use them. You can prevent any app from seeing your data by clicking no every time it appears.
And Apple has some more privacy settings you can change. Here’s how to find them:
First you need the . search and click on it settings icon† Press on 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 Follow and make sure Allow apps to ask to follow is on†
- Go back to the Privacy menu. You will see a separate section called Analysis and improvements†
- Change Share Apple TV Analytics until Out†
- Change Improve Siri and Dictation until Out†
You have now restricted Apple from tracking your analytics and using your data to improve Siri or dictation.