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Vizio tracked and sold your TV viewing habits without consent

A settlement with the Federal Trade Commission and the New Jersey Attorney General will cost Vizio $2.2 million. That sum will settle the charges with both the state and federal agencies after a complaint that Vizio installed software on 11 million smart TVs to track viewing histories with consumers’ knowledge. As part of the settlement, a federal court ordered the company to disclose its data collection and sharing practices and get express consent from customers before doing so.

What’s more, Vizio must delete any user data collected before March 1, 2016. According to the original complaint filed by the FTC and New Jersey AG, the company worked with a third party to build smart TVs that could capture “second-by-second” viewing information about what’s on the screen. That includes details on content from cable, internet, set-top boxes, DVD players, over-the-air broadcasts and other streaming devices.

In a blog post explaining the case, FTC senior attorney Lesley Fair says Vizio began making smart TVs in 2014 that automatically tracked the owners viewing habits and beamed that info back to its servers. Fair explains the company also added the tracking tech to older models via a software update. All of this was done without clearly informing customers or getting the proper consent to do so.

Fair also says that Vizio sold the collected viewing data to advertisers. Those details included IP addresses that could be matched to the owner and household. From there, third parties could use the information to gather personal details like sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership. Vizio didn’t allow the companies it was working with to identify users by name, but it did allow those third parties to track user habits across devices.

Vizio will pay $1.5 million to the FTC to settle the charges in addition to a civil penalty to the state of New Jersey that brings the total to $2.2 million. The company must also implement a privacy program that evaluates its use of consumer data on a regular basis in addition to deleting most of the information it gathered. We’ve reached out to Vizio for a comment on the matter and we’ll update this post when we hear back.

Source: FTC (1), (2)

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My name is Ms A C Kennedy and I am a Health practitioner and Consultant by day and a serial blogger by night. I luv family, life and learning new things. I especially luv learning how to improve my business. I also luv helping and sharing my information with others. Don't forget to ask me anything!

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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