Sat. May 18th, 2024

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Key Takeaways

  • Disable personalized ads in Roku settings to limit data tracking for targeted ads.
  • Block apps from accessing the remote’s microphone to prevent sharing audio data with advertisers.
  • Turn off ACR tracking on Roku TVs to limit data collection on what’s playing.

It’s no secret that smart TVs are a goldmine for tracking activity and sharing it with advertisers. Roku has some of the most popular streaming devices on the market, and the company makes hundreds of millions each year from advertising alone. I don’t like being a part of that—you don’t have to, either.

Disable Personalized Ads

While it’s not possible to completely get rid of all the ads on your Roku, you can limit what it knows about you. By default, Roku tracks your search history, search results, channels you access, and more, then shares that data with advertisers to serve you targeted ads.

To opt out of this, go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising. You’ll find the “Limit Ad Tracking” option there.

You may have noticed it says “Limit Ad Tracking”—the key word here being “limit.” Unforutnatey, this doesn’t turn off personalized ads completely. Services like Netflix and other channels will be notified that you prefer not to be tracked, but Roku doesn’t enforce anything. There’s no guarantee they will stop, but hey, it’s better than nothing.

Block Apps From Accessing the Remote’s Microphone

Person holding a Roku remote.
Corbin Davenport / How-To Geek

Many Roku devices—including all Roku TVs—come with remotes that have a voice function. Channels are able to receive audio data from the microphone when you press the button. Thankfully, you’re asked to grant permission the first time you do this, but you may want to think about revoking it.

Why? Another thing that Roku shares with advertisers is audio information from when you use voice-enabled features. The aforementioned “Limit Ad Tracking” option may not be rock solid, but disabling microphone access altogether is.

To disable microphone access for channels, go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone > Channel Microphone Access.

Turn Off ACR Tracking

Some Roku devices are full-blown TVs with the Roku OS built in, and this comes with some added privacy concerns. Namely automatic content recognition, otherwise known as “ACR.” It detects what’s playing on the TV, and that doesn’t only include the Roku interface, either.

To turn off ACR on a Roku TV, go to Settings > Privacy > Smart TV Experience and uncheck “Use Info from TV Inputs.”

Reset the Advertiser Identifier

Many of the devices we use day in and day out have what is called an “Advertising ID.” This is a similar concept to “cookies” in web browsers—a unique identifier that contains your activity, which is then used for advertising. And yes, this is separate from the aforementioned “Limit Ad Tracking” option.

You can’t completely remove your Advertising ID, but you can routinely reset it to erase all the activity it has recorded. Go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising > Reset Advertising Identifier.

In a perfect world, you could just trade money for goods, and that would be the end of it. No worrying about what’s happening with your private data. We don’t live in that world, so it’s helpful to know how to take some semblance of control back.

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By John P.

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