Few options if you don't want a "smart" TV

Karl Bode set out to buy a "dumb" TV set: one that didn't constantly try to go online, surveill him and shovel advertisements, offers and other useless crap in his face while he tried to watch some shows. They're out there, but they're not much good…

Of course it's challenging because TV manufacturers now make more money collecting and monetizing your personal data than they do selling the actual hardware. Last year Vizio noted it made $38.4 million in one quarter just from tracking and monetizing consumer viewing and usage data. It made $48.2 million on hardware (which also includes soundbars, and other products) in that same period.

That gap has likely closed in the year since, if it hasn't slammed shut. Worse, TV makers seem insistent on pushing their luck and ruining the quality of their own products as they pursue new online revenues. You'll routinely see smart TV GUIs slathered with obtrusive ads. And in some cases, greedy TV makers, like Vizio (previously busted tracking users without permission), are now pushing ads over live content.

Sceptre appears to be the most dumb brand (e.g.) but aren't easy to be found in person—and they're about as low-end as it gets. Which leaves options such as not using streaming services at all, using more trustworthy smart boxes (such as Roku's), or becoming a network administrator. And even then, manufacturers now stymie efforts to prevent their sets reaching the internet—most models now have built-in DNS, for example, requiring further tinkering to blackhole them.