Even as Chinese owned TV brands are steadily gaining traction in many markets around the works, including India and North America, there is a growing suspicion that these TVs may be spying on users. A Chinese TV maker Skyworth has confirmed that some of its smart TVs were collecting user data and blames a third-party app that was preloaded on the TVs in the first place. Skyworth TVs have an app called Gozen Service, which has been logging and sharing data about all other connected gadgets on the Wi-Fi network that the TV is connected with. The Gozen Service app is developed by a company called Gozen Data, which calls itself a big data analysis platform for OTT services and is based in Beijing, China. Skyworth is promising that the app has since been disabled.
Skyworth’s apology comes after posts by users on Chinese developer forum V2EX which suggested that the network traffic indicated that the Skyworth TVs owned by consumers scan the Wi-Fi network every few minutes to collect data about other devices also connected on the same Wi-Fi, and this included device names, IP addresses, network latency and other networks in range. “There was a business collaboration between Gozen Data and Shenzhen Kukai Network Technology Co. Ltd. (Coocaa), a subsidiary of Shenzhen Chuangwei-RGB Electronic Co. Ltd. (Skyworth TV). The collaboration was limited to the surveying of domestic TV program ratings in Mainland China on a sampling basis. The violations beyond this scope were not approved nor authorized by Skyworth TV,” says Skyworth in an official statement. It is not clear if any of the Skyworth TVs sold in other countries also have the same spyware app preloaded. The Gozen Data website, gz-data.com, says in an official statement that, “After self-examination, “Correcut Data Service" APK is a product of Beijing Collation Data Technology Co., Ltd. Our company has signed a business cooperation with Skyworth’s Kukai Network Technology Co., Ltd., which can be disabled by users themselves. The relevant information collected by our company is used for viewing and research-related business: families and individuals Rating, viewing effect analysis, advertising viewing analysis and optimization."
In India, Skyworth sells the smart TVs under the Metz branding, after the acquisition of the German TV maker. It isn’t clear if Metz TVs are impacted by the same issue. Skyworth says that they will implement more stringent reviews on the conduct of their partners and service providers to protect user privacy and data. This, mind you, isn’t the first time Chinese TV brands have been reported with privacy issues. Last year, independent security researchers said TCL TVs running the Android TV platform had security holes that would have allowed anyone snooping in to access the device’s entire filesystem and overwrite it if they wished to. All of this could be done without entering a username, a password or any kind of authorization at all. The flaws were assigned the Common Vulnerability and Exposure catalog numbers CVE-2020-27403 and CVE-2020-28055 after the researchers notified the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The company later patched the TVs to fix the vulnerability.