Three smart TV makers -- Sony Corp., LG Electronics Inc., and Samsung Electronics America Inc. -- are defendants in a class action lawsuit that alleges the companies violated privacy rights by illegally obtaining information from customers’ smart TVs without their knowledge.

The suit alleges that customers were unaware that Automatic Tracking Software (ATS) in their smart TVs was used by the manufacturers to collect information about viewing habits, including requests for specific video services and materials. The suit claims that this information was then sold to third parties that used it to target consumers with specific advertising messages. It also contends that Samsung, Sony and LG hid ATS programs from consumers and obtained their personal information without permission.

According to the complaint, “for the vast majority of consumers who are unaware of the need to take steps to ensure their privacy, Defendants do nothing to alert them, preferring to keep their invasive monitoring and tracking practices - their ‘backdoor billion dollar business’ – a secret from its customers.”

The lead plaintiffs in the class action allege that they were completely unaware of the existence of ATS in their smart TVs and were not aware their viewing data was being tracked and sold. They allege that these actions violate the federal Video Privacy Act. the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and consumer protection laws, among other claims.

The class action was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey and seeks certification of a Class of all U.S. persons who purchased or leased a Samsung, Sony or LG smart TV since January 1, 2012. The lawsuit seeks punitive and statutory damages as well as an injunction preventing the manufacturers from tracking customer data without permission.

Violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act are punishable by statutory damages of $100 per day of violation, up to a maximum of $10,000 for each violation.

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