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Thursday, Jun 30, 2022

Vizio Spying Payment Could Have Bigger Implications

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Vizio Inc.’s $2.2 million agreement to settle charges that it violated unfair trade practices and consumer protection laws by tracking the viewing habits of smart TV owners without their knowledge or consent could alter William Wang’s business plan after the company’s proposed sale.

The founder of the Irvine-based brand, which agreed to a $2 billion sale in July to Chinese conglomerate LeEco, plans to cede his role and become chairman and chief executive of the company’s developing data business, Inscape, which captures “second-by-second information” from cable, broadband, set-top box, DVD, over-the-air broadcasts and streaming devices, according to the Federal Trade Commission and the office of the New Jersey attorney general.

The complaint alleges that Vizio aggregated specific demographic information, such as gender, age, income, marital status, household size, education level, home ownership, and household value, and sold the data to third parties, which used it for various purposes, such as targeted advertising.

A federal court order mandates Vizio, one of OC’s largest private companies, with annual sales of about $3.5 billion, to prominently disclose and obtain express consent for its data collection and sharing practices. It also requires the company to delete data collected before March 1, 2016, from about 11 million TVs, and implement a comprehensive data privacy program with biennial assessments.

Wang will retain a 51% stake of the burgeoning data business line, which aims to monetize data collected from millions of consumers who own Vizio TVs.

Inscape will spin out and operate as a separate privately owned company.

Exec Moves

Jeffrey Kukowski has been promoted to chief executive of Irvine-based security software maker SecureAuth Corp.

Kukowski, who served as chief operating officer of the company for 15 months, replaces Craig Lund, who shifted to the chairman’s role.

SecureAuth is part of a growing OC cybersecurity hub and recently established a national consortium of private and public entities seeking to solve the growing problem of data breaches.

Its subscription software, used by the likes of Southwest Airlines, Qualcomm, HBO, Western Union and Electronic Arts, verifies the identity of employees, customers and consumers allowed access to physical and virtual networks, and provides device recognition through what’s called adaptive authentication, in which a user seeking access is identified from a known device used on a previous log-in or through an unfamiliar device.

Sales were projected to pass $30 million last year.

The company last year moved to a 27,000-square-foot office at 8845 Irvine Center Drive to house its growing core software development team and support staff, as well as SecureAuth University, a training facility where resellers and other IT experts can earn certificates in various cybersecurity products.

It plans to increase its workforce by about 50 positions to end the year with 150.

SecureAuth has raised more than $40 million since its 2005 inception. Backers include Newport Beach-based Toba Capital, OC’s largest venture capital firm.

Code This

Coding Dojo, which runs coding boot camps across the country, has opened its first Orange County location.

The Bellevue, Wash-based company, which was represented by JLL, has a 12,000-square-foot lease at The Hive, a 190,000-square-foot creative-office campus at 3333 Susan St. in Costa Mesa.

“With the opening of our Berkeley and Orange County campuses, we’ve made a conscious decision to double-down on our most in-demand locations,” Coding Dojo Chief Executive Richard Wang said.

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