Nothing in this life is free, especially a “free” 55-inch television. On Monday, a new startup called Telly announced plans to provide half-a-million smart TVs to consumers free-of-charge. But there’s a catch—underneath the sizable 4K HDR primary screen and accompanying five-driver soundbar is a second, smaller screen meant to constantly display advertisements alongside other widgets like stock prices and weather forecasts. The tradeoff for a constant stream of Pizza Hut offers and car insurance deals, therefore, is a technically commercial-free streaming experience. Basically, it swaps out commercial breaks for a steady montage of pop-up ads.
As first highlighted by journalist Shoshana Wodinsky and subsequently boosted by TechCrunch on Tuesday, Telly’s original privacy fine print apparently was a typo-laden draft featuring editorial comments asking “Do wehave [sic] to say we will delete the information or is there another way around…,” discarding children’s personal data.
According to a statement provided to TechCrunch from Telly’s chief strategy officer Dallas Lawrence, the questions within the concerning, since-revised policy draft “appear a bit out of context,” and there’s a perfectly logical explanation to it:
“The team was unclear about how much time we had to delete any data we may inadvertently capture on children under 13,” wrote Lawrence, who added, “The term ‘quickly as possible’ that was included in the draft language seemed vague and undetermined and needing [sic] further clarification from a technical perspective.”
User data troves are often essential to tech companies’ financials, as they can be sold to any number of third-parties for lucrative sums of money. Most often, this information is used to build extremely detailed consumer profiles to customize ad experiences, but there are numerous instances of data caches being provided to law enforcement agencies without users’ knowledge, alongside various hacker groups and bad actors regularly obtaining the personal information.
Telly is still taking reservations for its “free” smart TVs, but as the old adage goes: Buyer beware. And even when you’re not technically “buying” it, you’re certainly paying for it.