Options for a privacy-friendly streaming box?

I like streaming boxes, they make it easy to watch content from a variety of streaming services, Youtube, and my self-hosted Jellyfin instance on my home TV. But all the major streaming boxes are made by companies that do not have the best reputation regarding privacy. Is there a privacy-friendly streaming box out there?

I’ve been recommended NVIDIA Shield in the past (NVIDIA SHIELD TV 4K HDR), but nothing in their marketing makes it appear as though it’s a specifically privacy-focused product.

I feel like the best solution would be a Raspberry Pi or similar running some kind of Android fork. I’ve never owned a Raspberry Pi (they seem to perpetually out of stock as of late), so I have no idea if there’s already some kind of software made for this purpose in mind or if I would have to use something more general.

Happy to hear thoughts on any of the option I mentioned above or other suggestions.

1 Like

Please stop telling people what they should and should not do, make suggestions not commands.

I also don’t understand your obsession with ‘NSA Agents’ and ‘NSA Propaganda’ especially the ‘NSA Agent’ stuff as that is essentially name-calling. You have no evidence whatsoever to back up any of your ‘NSA Agent’ or ‘NSA Propaganda’ claims so please, stop. It can be hurtful to people to be called that.

Done lol.

Their stances are evidences so I don’t really understand what you are trying to say here.

1 Like

Their opinions and stances are not enough evidence to call them ‘NSA Agents’ or say that they spread ‘NSA Propaganda’. They have a right to their own opinion.

My personal choice is the Apple TV 4K. I’ve been using it (first generation) for a few years now and have been generally happy with it. If one wanted to, one could create a separate Apple account exclusively for use with the Apple TV, though I don’t personally see the need.

What specifically are you trying to protect about your use of a streaming box?

Trying to stop my app usage, media watching habits, etc. being mined for ad purposes. Also trying to keep devices that may be snooping on my network traffic off of my home network.

On Apple’s tvOS you can go to Settings->General->Privacy->Tracking and turn off “Allow Apps to Ask to Track.” You can also turn off Location Serrvices and opt not to share analytics data with Apple and/or app developers.

1 Like

Last month I partially followed these guides with a $20 android box.

I plan to redo my setup to only allow Amazon through.

Nvidia should be avoided, for any privacy advocate. Their products are full of telemetry, with their android stuff littered with ads. When they first brought out their product stack, with the Shield tablet and TV, it was better, but over time they’ve gotten worse and worse. Every update they increased how many ads they put upfront. Great hardware, great features, but at the cost of Nvidia’s telemetry. You’d be handling data to both Google and Nvidia. There are methods to have a 3rd party launcher, but I cannot confirm (no longer use the device). Android boxes also have stuttering issues. This is a problem with the OS, not the hardware. Every Android box will suffer from this issue. Just some will have better/worse stuttering (the shield can brute force some of the issues, thanks to the the really good SoC).

I have no experience with Android on a Pi, but I don’t think it would be a good experience. Android has gotten quite heavy, over the years. With media also requiring a moderate amount of resources, I don’t think the Cortex-A72 (I think?) would cope. The Pi would handle small tasks, but a streaming box is a bit much… unless you’re looking for 480-720p streams… That’s without the Android bloat.

Personally, I’d avoid Android completely. Instead doing one of two things:

  • Instead of AndroidTV, go AppleTV. The more up-to-date models are great pieces of kit, comparable to the Shield TV. The UI is so much cleaner, with it being very responsive, and not cluttered with ads. Apple also tends to be more trusted than Google for privacy, and has an overall better privacy policy. This is a simple solution, that requires no work to setup, and is what I’d recommend to most folks. It’s the “Decent” option.
  • Now, if you’re more technical (I assume you are), why not build your own streaming box. Build a computer around a cheap Intel CPU (DO NOT go AMD, for this, very important), with integrated graphics (so no graphics card). Don’t need to go fancy, a somewhat modern i3 is more than enough. Consider a Mobo with Bluetooth/WiFi, so you can use a Bluetooth remote. Build it into a sleek, mini-ITX case, and use that as your streaming box. After your build, install Linux, with a media suite (like Kodi or Plex). Set everything up with the services you want (both Kodi, and Plex support most streaming services, and local media), and auto-boot into the media interface. Thanks to Intel’s QuickSync, your PC will be more than enough for any media, including 4k content. Not to mention all the other stuff a PC can do. This is the “private” option.
1 Like

Thanks for this suggestion.

Hiw can you install streaming apps?

I think these are the two best options. I personally use an Apple TV with the privacy settings adjusted as #Acolyte suggests.

I do not consider my streaming habits to be sensitive and I do not see any ads on apps I use on the Apple TV. Your threat model, privacy preference, or apps you use may differ.