Is eltrona spying via IPTV?

While having to pay for cable TV had become a norm, it also seemed revolutionary to be able to just slip the card into a TV to use it’s integrated tuner/receiver. No need for rental fees or being forced to use a device with limited features.

Eltrona had, until now, been a great cable provider but it seems that their intentions of solely being a cable and internet provider has shifted towards data collection. It is no secret that data on human interaction is worth a lot of money, and is considered by many activists as more valuable than gold. Now the question people will probably ask is: what is my issue with the new IPTV offering?

Eltrona is now solely providing IPTV instead of cable it seems, while there are a few nice features that elevates it from the competition like:

  • No need for a cable card
  • Language settings allow Luxembourgish
  • Less geo-blocking of foreign content
  • Movie rentals in several languages
  • 4k Television
  • Watching the past 48 hours of TV (depending on station)
  • Recording TV shows
  • Watching TV via app on mobile devices

But there are also some issues with the new service:

  • No way to disable the recording of your viewing habits
  • No explicit GDPR consent
  • No possibility of receiving television during a power outage
  • Rental fees for the receiver
  • Requiring a receiver in the first place, unable to use the IPTV service via the IPTV capable TV natively

Image of the receiver in question

Now I do not have explicit data nor did I receive a reply from eltrona regarding the recording of viewing habits, yet does the device explicitly have this capability based on the producer's website. The device in question is the P570 Hybrid by ocilion, a German company that sells their own services and boxes to cable and IPTV providers. They also do provide services for individualizing the receiver as well as the accompanying softwares. The remote sold via oscilion and which is packaged with the receiver is produced by the portuguese company tech4home . The model called "NOTUS" is the one that has been adapted and modified for the P570 receiver. It transmits via IR as well as bluetooth, while the latter technology is used for the P570. It does have a microphone integrated in the remote, which does not seem to be used in this specific use case since I am unable to find any information in the receiver settings nor in the documentation provided by eltrona or ocilion. Yet it does raise questions as to why the microphone is not removed?

Image of the remote in question

On ocilion's website they promote their services which consist of:
  • Individualization of the receiver
  • Individualization of the remote
  • Individualization of the software
  • Video on demand
  • Provisioning
  • Software updates
  • Data collection on viewing habits

The latter is in my honest opinion the most worrisome of the bunch. What data is collected? How can I refuse that collection of data? Why do I have to use a receiver device when my television is IPTV capable. It all seems to me that eltrona is loosing ground and seeks new ways to generate money. By being able to collect data they can show the user advertisements based on their viewing habits. This does not limit to other television shows, in contrast to youtube’s algorithm that tries to promote relatable videos on the platform, but ocilion is explicitly marketing this feature to allow ads for local stores and events. For most activists it is clear how much information can be gathered with such a little tool to even find out about the user’s personal habits and well-being. Like the story of the young girl who did not know she was pregnant, yet the store knew based on her buying habits. Now I do understand that many people declare to “not care” about that, but what is the reach of it? Does eltrona or ocilion need to know when we have our basic human urges? So they can sell this data, while still charging us to enforce more advertisements on us? I do not think so.

Screenshot of the administration software

Television usage is on a decline that many big corporations do not like to see. Trying to get back at us by offering their own VOD-services and making all their shows exclusive, while even geo-blocking the content. How long will we allow this to happen? While some features of the new receiver seem interesting it could end up like the US company TiVO. Which allowed recording cable TV and users could skip ads while watching a recording. Later TiVo got in a legal battle because the broadcasters argued that the seeing of the ads would be necessary for their continuation as a broadcaster. Thus TiVo was forced to not allow the skipping of ads in recordings. I presume that this fate will hit us to. Not only to pay for content that still has advertisements shown to us but also that we cannot skip them in a recording of a show.

Back when TV was still relevant I did want to have IPTV, but my personal opinion changed. If it were solely up to me I would have refused the receiver and only watched content online, while still refusing to have more than 3 VOD subscriptions. It is us consumers who are in control, we do need to act and not just allow the big corporations to dictated how and what we can watch. Netflix, Amazon prime, Maxdome and many others were successful in lowering the amount of “illegal” downloads to a very low amount, but now the greed is back and with all the laws now in place to heavily punish the people instead of the illegal provider they bind us to their services and fees, while at the same time taking our personal control from us. It disgusts me what we have allowed to happen just for unnecessary convenience.

Now let’s just hope they do not activate the remote’s microphone as it would drain the battery too much be an even more invasive way to collect data on our viewing habits.

(Also why does the receiver need a giant ugly square button on top of the shiny white, I would have preferred black, case only to pair a bluetooth remote?)