Amazon reportedly crippling internals of some Fire TV devices on purpose

(Photo courtesy Amazon, Graphic by The Desk)

Amazon is reportedly breaking a component in some of its Fire TV devices on purpose in order to prevent users from reverting to an older version of the device’s operating system once they decide to upgrade.

The discovery was made by two engineers who found that Fire TV sticks with a new variant of Amazon’s smart TV operating system would no longer function if a user tried to roll back the operating system to a prior version.

The issue apparently stems from Amazon’s use of electronic fuses, or eFuses, which are small fuses embedded in computer chips that can be permanently disabled, or “blown,” in order to modify the circuitry of a computer chip.

Hardware manufacturers and other programmers use electronic fuses for a variety of reasons, but one of the most-common reasons is to prevent a user from doing something — in this case, from uninstalling the latest version of Amazon’s Fire TV operating system once a user upgrades on their device.

As first reported on Tuesday by the Android Fire TV News (AFTV) blog, a developer recently discovered that Amazon included computer code in a previous version of the company’s smart TV operating system that would deliberately blow up an electronic fuse in certain Fire TV devices.

The script didn’t immediately blow up the fuse when it was downloaded to devices some time go, but recently became active when Amazon started distributing the new version of its Fire TV operating system, which includes a major refresh of its home screen look and feel.

It would not be the first time Amazon has crippled electronic fuses in its own hardware to prevent users from doing something: AFTV said the company was suspected of taking the same tactic in order to prevent Fire TV stick users from modifying their device in a way that would allow users to install custom home screens, operating systems and apps that are not officially supported by Amazon.