Skyworth TV spy scandal – Good news for South African owners

Skyworth smart TVs sold in South Africa did not spy on user devices or send sensitive information of their owners to a Chinese-based data firm, the company has told MyBroadband.

Controversy has surrounded the world’s fifth-largest TV manufacturer after a network traffic analysis performed by a user on Chinese developer forum V2EX revealed that its smart TV sets were constantly scanning for devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

The analysis showed that the TVs would capture and compile information from these devices which included IP addresses, network latency, and the names of other Wi-Fi networks within range.

This would then be sent to a server belonging to Beijing-based data analytics firm Gozen Data, a targeted advertising company which refers to itself as China’s first “home marketing company empowered by big data centred on family data”.

The forum post resulted in big backlash from Chinese users, which forced a response from Skyworth.

The company said it had ended its partnership with Gozen Data over what it deemed to be the “illegal acquisition” of user information.

Skyworth stated its collaboration with Gozen Data was supposed to be limited to the surveying of domestic TV programme ratings in Mainland China on a sampling basis.

“The violations beyond this scope were not approved nor authorized by Skyworth TV,” the company stated.

The violation referred to here was that Skyworth never authorised the capturing of people’s information, and would never authorise this.  

“We have immediately disabled the application concerned across all Skyworth TV products and conducted a thorough investigation into the incident,” Skyworth said. 

It has further requested that Gozen Data delete all illegally obtained data of Skyworth TV users.

Gozen Data has also issued a statement in which it apologised for causing concerns over user privacy and security and added that users were able to disable the Gozen Data Android app on TVs.

The issue left users of Skyworth TVs in other locations concerned over whether their sets had also captured and sent information to Gozen Data without their permission or knowledge.

Several Skyworth smart TV models are also sold by major retailers in South Africa – including Takealot, HiFi Corp, Incredible Connection, Makro, and Mason’s.

Skyworth 55-inch UDH Smart TV sold by HiFi Corp.

A phone hacker based in North Africa – which goes by the name of Gsmaster – scanned the connections of multiple Skyworth TVs he owned.

He presented a screenshot of the Nmap network mapping tool to Tom’s Guide, which showed that at least nine ports were being used for unknown purposes.

It was not clear whether Gozen Data had been installed on his TV and was responsible for the activity, however.

Skyworth has confirmed to MyBroadband that the Gozen Data app was never installed on any of its smart TVs outside of China and therefore the issue did not impact users in other markets.

“Not a single Skyworth television in South Africa ever had the Gozen service on it,” the company stated.

It added it was grateful to the users which brought the issue to its attention.

“The violation is strongly against Skyworth TV’s core value of putting users first,” the company stated.

“Moving forward, we will implement more stringent reviews on the conduct of our partners and service providers to safeguard our users’ privacy, data, rights, and interests.”

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Skyworth TV spy scandal – Good news for South African owners