Should We Care That Netflix Knows Everything About Our Viewing Habits?


A tweet from Netflix poking enjoyable on the 53 customers they stated watched “A Christmas Prince” day by day for the previous 18 days “went viral,” as the children say, and provoked questions on simply how a lot information Netflix has stockpiled about our binge-watching, and who has entry to it.

I’ve seen some fear and evaluation about the truth that Netflix apparently retains detailed information on our particular person viewing habits, however what, precisely, did we anticipate? How did we expect Netflix’s algorithms knew simply what to give you after watching two or three seasons of The Nice British Baking Present in a single weekend? (Sure, The Huge Household Cooking Showdown was nice. Nadiya endlessly.)

Netflix’s Twitter account continued to have enjoyable within the replies to its preliminary Tweet.

However others weren’t so amused by this public demonstration of Netflix’s huge information reserves.

To be truthful, some customers raised some fairly respectable issues, much less upset concerning the information assortment itself and extra involved with who had entry to it and the brink for releasing and even simply teasing about that information.

While you begin fascinated by the quantity of information that’s floating on the market about you, it’s higher to not give it some thought. (Hello, Google, you’re wanting notably stunning lately.) Whereas it shouldn’t increase any eyebrows that Netflix is aware of precisely what number of occasions you’ve rewatched Parks and Rec this yr, it’s attention-grabbing to contemplate the ramifications of this information being accessible to completely different teams inside the firm. If I had been a Netflix worker, may I, say, lookup the viewing historical past of a specific film star or politician? What about that of my neighbor down the road?

In response to among the blowback over the tweet, Netflix stated:

The privateness of our members’ viewing is vital to us. This data represents general viewing traits, not the non-public viewing data of particular, recognized people.”

I’ve little question that Netflix takes important measures to safeguard our information from exterior events. However in my expertise working at tech firms, it’s not rare that delicate materials and broad entry was accessible even to low-level staff—have a look at the third-party contractor who was in a position to turn off Trump’s Twitter account for ten superb minutes and the shortage of safeguards therein.

What’s not clear is how protected members’ viewing histories are inside Netflix itself. And Netflix’s assertion is complicated, because the preliminary tweet most definitely represented “the non-public data of particular … people.” They weren’t recognized on social media, which clearly can be an unforgivable privateness violation, but it surely was particular sufficient—53 folks, 18 days—to really feel uncomfortable. How would you are feeling in the event you had been a kind of A Christmas Prince aficionados?

My first intuition after I noticed Netflix’s Tweet was to snort about it, and to shrug my shoulders: would I actually care if the entire world may see my Netflix viewing historical past? It’s principally Loopy Ex-Girlfriend, documentaries about historical civilizations, and Bojack Horseman.

However this preliminary blase angle on my half wasn’t truthful, as a result of there are definitely many circumstances the place such leaked viewing histories may have severe ramifications on somebody’s life. What we watch is a private factor, and it may be revealing, or assumed to be revealing. Watching traits may definitely be used to counsel preferences or tastes by affiliation, and could possibly be wielded in a style that would really really feel like a privateness violation—whether or not you’re a well-known politician or simply, nicely, me. Possibly let’s hold these items to ourselves, Netflix, and off of social media.

(by way of EW, picture: Wikimedia Commons)

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