I run Linux on my computers, de-Googled Android ROMs on my phone and tablet, and rely on free and open source apps to the maximum extent practicable. It should thus come as little surprise that I am not a fan of so-called smart TVs. Back in my day, people used TVs to watch stuff. TV manufacturers did not use TVs to watch people. I have done my utmost to make TVs great again by disconnecting my TCL Roku TV from the internet and using it as a monitor for my computer (as seen in one prior article). (Note: I use two regular monitors for actually working on my computer. I use the TV as a monitor when I am watching videos or, in certain cases, playing games.) This set-up is possible because my TV cabinet rests between the table hosting my main desktop computer and my work desk with a dual monitor set-up. It works well because, unsurprisingly, the desktop computer that I built has much better hardware than a smart TV.

However, I have a problem. I need advice from The New Leaf Journal community. Despite the fact that I do not let my “smart” TV access the internet, I still think that it might be watching me. See below.

Photo of a TCL TV being used as a computer monitor and having a 5 Centimeters Per Second desktop background.
I took this photo with my Kodak PIXPRO AZ421 camera. It has been a while since it made its last appearance in The New Leaf Journal.

If you look closely, you can see what I am talking about in the top left corner of the display. I know that it will be hard to focus on the top left of the display when you are presented with my beautiful 5 Centimeters Per Second desktop background, but maybe aesthetic digital environments exist to distract us from the fact that our TVs are watching us.

Undeterred, I decided to approach the TV to try to pin down what exactly was going on.

Photo of a stuffed tardigrade perched atop a TCL TV being used as a computer monitor.
This photo came from my Teracube 2e camera.

There is no doubt about it. My TV is definitely watching me despite not having an internet connection. While the watcher is hazy, I can see him. What kind of debauchery is this? Moreover, I get the feeling that my TV is watching me while I write this article.

Photo of a stuffed tardigrade perched atop a TCL TV being used as a computer monitor.
You can see the device that I use to transfer photos from my camera SD card to my computer glowing red next to my TV’s soundbar.

You can see the threat a little bit more clearly here because there is light coming from the adjacent room. You can also see my desktop computer in the bottom left of the picture. Note that I took this photo from my work desk after changing the output monitor to my TV.

In case you still do not see the danger, I bravely approached it and captured a photo. Do you see my nifty Pokémon-themed cursor? I strategically placed it such that it is pointing out the watcher.

Photo of a stuffed tardigrade perched atop a TCL TV being used as a computer monitor.
You can see in the top right of this photo that I am using the XFCE desktop environment. I suspect that GNOME and KDE may be better “TV” desktop environments, but XFCE works well once you have the scaling down. I also like its display manager app more than I liked KDE’s. I use Firefox with hardening as my primary browser, but I edit The New Leaf Journal in Brave. The barely-visible picture frame behind the TV has a signed photograph of Mr. Fred Couples at the 1996 PGA Player’s Championship.

Writing this article has convinced me that my TV is definitely watching me despite not having an internet connection. These photos really make you think, do they not? Perhaps not as much as other photos featured here, however. The fears expressed by commenters on Hacker News and other fora that TVs can spy on you even without internet access have been proven clearly and beyond doubt.

However, I must note that the little guy watching me from the top left corner of my TV is kind of endearing. Moreover, he seems to just be relaxing up there. He does not interject with tips about how to use my computer/TV set-up (a la Clippy). To the best of my knowledge, he has not sold data about me to big tech advertisers, domestic or foreign intelligence agencies, or the Chinese Communist Party. While I still find this disconcerting, the watcher seems mostly harmless. While I will not let my guard down, I suppose that I do not need to burn the TV.


  • The little guy is a stuffed tardigrade from Giant Microbes
  • He has been perched on the top left of my TV for a while
  • I do not really notice the small tassels overlaying the top left of my TV anymore