Samsung inserts Yahoo ads into users’ private apps -

Samsung inserts Yahoo ads into users’ private apps

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

February 12, 2015

Samsung SmartTVs have already caused something of a stir this week when it was revealed that Samsung’s privacy policy warns users they may be spied on when talking in front of their TV, and that data captured will be forwarded to a third party voice recognition service.

It now seems that Samsung is guilty of inserting pop-up ads from Yahoo into third party aps, so then when users watch their own movies on Plex, or stream shows using the Foxtel app, they are subjected to advertising.

The issue first raised its head on a Plex subreddit forum, where one redditer observed that,

I watch most of my TV shows on a Samsung Smart TV and it has been fantastic for the past year. Recently it has been stopping half way through a show or a movie and has played a pepsi ad that is muted.

A Foxtel customer also complained about a similar problem,

After about 15 minutes of watching live TV, the screen goes blank, and then a 16:9 sized Pepsi advert (taking up about half the screen) pops up and stops Foxtel playing. It’s as if there is a popup ad on the TV. I have not installed any other software or apps – I just factory reset and loaded up Foxtel. So again, WTF?!!

More complaints followed. It seems the issue, however, has nothing to do with Plex or Foxtel, but with a new partnership between Samsung and Yahoo to create ‘interactive experiences’, which includes pushing ads to SmartTV users,

Samsung has been working with consumers and with strategic partners since 2011 to explore and develop more interactive smartTV features that will allow consumers the choice to experience a new generation of home entertainment. These new interactive experiences are offered on an “opt-in” basis via the Samsung SmartHub.  We are working with Yahoo to create an opt-in screen prompt specific to their service as soon as possible.

At the time of the deal, Samsung promised that the new ad-serving ‘feature’ would be ‘opt-in’ only (although why would anyone want to see more ads?!), and it now claims these latest incidents of Pepsi commercials turning up in users’ unrelated video screenings are a mistake, and have apologised (to Foxtel users at least),

We are aware of a situation that has caused some Smart TV users in Australia to experience programme interruption in the form of an advertisement… This seems to be caused by an error, and we are currently conducting a full and thorough investigation into the cause as our top priority. This situation has so far been reported only in Australia. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience experienced by our customers.

The problem lies in TV manufacturers such as Samsung (others are also guilty) being desperate to not just sell us TV sets, but to monetize internet connected ‘smart TVs’ (in the more general non-Samsung branded sense), providing ‘features’ that users simply do not want or need, at the expense of functionality that users do want.

The popularity of media streaming services such as Netflix, and of stand-alone media streaming hardware such as AppleTV, Roku, Chromecast etc., demonstrates that there is a consumer appetite for what smart TV’s can and should be providing, but that customers would rather pay for and clutter up their TV space with additional external gadgets than use the services of TV manufacturers out to squeeze every last penny from their users..

Opting out of the ads

It does seem that the ad-serving feature on Samsung SmartTVs was turned on by default by mistake. To opt-out:

Exit Smart Hub, then press Menu on your Samsung Remote and scroll to Smart Hub -> Terms & Policy -> Yahoo Privacy Policy. Scroll to ‘I disagree with the Yahoo Privacy Notice.’ and you can toggle the option on to opt-out.

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