Gigabyte-gobbling Amazon Fire TV bug burns through data caps

Amazon Fire TV home screen

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A screensaver bug in Amazon's Fire TV can quickly and quietly consume hundreds of gigabytes of data, though the company is already working on a fix.

Tyler Hayes, a freelance writer, discovered the bug after Cox Cable sent him a notice about excessive data use. Upon further investigation, he discovered that the streaming set-top box was burning through as much as 80 GB in a single day.

Hayes originally blamed Fire TV's ASAP feature, which predicts the videos you'll watch and caches them for faster access. Because the feature can't be turned off, he worried that he might not be able to use Fire TV at all. It seemed that this was the nightmare scenario we imagined years ago, in which wired Internet data caps pose a threat to innovation.

But on Monday, Amazon said ASAP was not to blame. Instead, Hayes had stumbled on a bug in Fire TV's “mosaic” screensaver, a feature that is disabled by default. Amazon said that for a small number of users, the images were failing to cache and driving up data consumption.

“We’re working on a software update that will fix this bug, and in the meantime you can turn off the mosaic view for the screensaver to avoid the issue,” Amazon said in a statement to Hayes.

ISP data caps may still become a major issue, as the limits by Cox and others look increasingly stingy in the age of streaming video, but at least Fire TV users aren't at any immediate risk.

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