Amazon Fire TV’s Data Monitoring is about protecting your Wallet, not your Privacy

I’ve been seeing an influx of articles and videos for “Fire TV Tips” that insist you should turn off the Data Monitoring option on your Fire TVs and Firesticks to “stop amazon from spying on you” and to “protect your privacy.” That’s utter nonsense and a complete misunderstanding of what the setting does. Here’s an explanation of what it does, why it has nothing to do with your privacy, how turning it on could actually save you money, and a bonus use for the setting that isn’t what it was intended for.

The Fire TV’s Data Monitoring options, found under the Preferences menu in Settings, first appeared back in 2017 and they’ve been misinterpreted ever since. The biggest problem with the setting is the name because calling it “Data Monitoring” sounds like it has something to do with Amazon tracking what you do on your Fire TV. I assume this is why so many sites and videos tell you to turn it off, but if they just took a second to flip it on (it’s off by default) they would quickly realize it’s not what they think it is.

The Fire TV’s Data Monitoring option is for you to track how much data (i.e., internet usage) your device is consuming so that you don’t unknowingly go over your internet data cap. Enabling it or disabling it does not change what information Amazon can track. It’s strictly for your own knowledge. This feature was added to the Fire TV in conjunction with its launch in India, where data caps are much more prevalent. If you’re concerned about Amazon collecting information about your device, the actual settings that you want to disable are labeled “Device Usage Data” and “Collect App Usage Data” under Settings > Preferences > Privacy Settings.

Once you enable Data Monitoring, you’ll have the option to set a data alert amount, in GB, that you want to be notified about. When your Fire TV consumes that much data, you’ll see a fullscreen message appear about it when you go over the threshold that you set. You can set which day of the month the alert should reset so that it aligns with your internet billing cycle.

Under the Data Monitoring menu is also a setting to adjust the video quality for Prime Video content. Dropping the setting from “Best,” which is the default, to “Better” can reduce data usage by about half without making much of a difference in image quality. Dropping it to the lowest setting of “Good” will noticeably degrade the image quality but can reduce data usage by over 80%.

If you have a data cap, reducing the quality of Prime Video and monitoring your Fire TV’s data usage so that you don’t go over your cap can obviously save you money. However, even if you don’t have a data cap, there is another feature of the Fire TV’s data monitoring option that could save you money in a way that may not be obvious.

Enabling data monitoring lets you see a list of which apps consume the most data. While it’s not a direct representation of time usage, I use this list as a way to monitor which apps my household is using the most. This can give you insight into which streaming service subscriptions you could cancel to save some money. If a paid service’s app is consistently low on this list, maybe it’s time to reconsider if you’re getting enough out of it for what you’re paying.

There you have it. Data monitoring on the Fire TV has nothing to do with privacy. That’s under, surprise surprise, the privacy settings area. If you have a data cap, which seems like it will be more common for a lot of people next year, you should really consider turning data monitoring on. Even if you don’t have a data cap, it’s a nice way to roughly track which apps are getting used the most.

7 comments
  1. Charlie_ says:

    When data caps become a thing, I’m in real trouble. On my main Fire TV, Twitch has used nearly 600 GB this month. That’s one service and before you factor in any of my other devices that my household uses.

    But one strange thing, News is reporting that it has used 1.11 GB of data and I’ve literally never opened it. So what is it doing in the background?

    • My guess is that News provides content suggestions into the Home screen and the Live tab. Since it’s a lot of live channels/services that are always changing, it needs to refresh itself quite a bit.

      • TechyChris says:

        Interesting topic, 1.2 terabyte is a fair amount for a single month. I am in a family of three, we stream everything, everyday, the most usage I’ve ever recorded in a single month is 650 GB so we would have to double that amount before seeing surcharges. Obviously larger families would consume more.
        That being said, If data caps become the next consumer battleground we should be given the option to delete or at least disable ANY installed bloatware or system apps that could potentially use “background” data… no matter how negligible.

  2. Dean says:

    My main TV’s FTV is the second chattiest thing on my network, even when the TV is off. Interestingly, the other FTVs are much less so. Must be one or more apps I have installed constantly polling. A lot of it is to Amazon domains, but that could aws cloud services for other apps.

    A lot of it is blocked by pi-hole ad blocker, but there’s still some activity going to Netflix, Amazon, etc. 1200 DNS queries in less than an hour, with the TV off.

    Before Elias’ article about how potentially harmful it is to power the FTV Stick from the TV’s USB interface, network traffic was one of my main motivations to have the other FTV devices power down with the TV.

    • Charlie_ says:

      If it’s anything like the Roku, once Pi-Hole blocks it, it will start spazzing out and trying to call home alot more often.

  3. Anon says:

    I usually turn that setting off so fire tv does ‘less behind the scenes’ and is more responsive to everything else. With data caps from comcast/xfinity hitting nationwide in January, this will become a helpful tool not to go over data.

  4. Tom Wooden says:

    VPN use for data caps

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