We’re finally getting paranoid about our online data. But why stop with Facebook? Netflix knows a ton about us, too.
As far as streaming video services go, it doesn’t get much bigger than Netflix. By the numbers, Netflix serves more than 118 million subscribers in 190 countries, dishing out more than 140 million hours of TV shows and movies, per day.
And lest we forget, Netflix creeped out some users in December when the company’s official Twitter account poked fun at 53 people who watched A Christmas Prince every day for 18 days. Responding to a backlash on social media, the company reaffirmed its commitment to privacy and said this info “represents overall viewing trends, not the personal viewing information of specific, identified individuals.”
Here’s what Netflix knows about users, what’s done with that data, and what you can do when you find it.
What info does Netflix receive and store on its users?
Updated in January 2017, Netflix’s official Privacy Statement is available to view here. It’s about 3,000 words, and covers most (if not all) of what you’d want to know.
A good chunk of it covers what data Netflix receives and stores on subscribers. This is broken down into three areas:
Information you provide to Netflix: Your name, email address, address, payment method and telephone number. It also stores data, such as when you give content a rating (like 4 stars) or reviews.
Information Netflix collects automatically: This includes what platforms you watch Netflix on (such as a smartphone, tablet, computer, Smart TV or streaming box), your IP address (so it knows where you’re logging in from), watch history and search queries, how long you’ve watched a show, and interactions with customer service.
Like many online companies, if you log into Netflix on a Web browser, it also collects information on your Web history like cookies, Web beacons and advertising identifiers. Netflix says it uses online interest-based advertising to target users with its ads on other websites or apps — but does not allow for third-party advertising on Netflix.
Information from other sources: Netflix says it “might supplement the information described above with information we obtain from other sources, including from both online and offline data providers.” Netflix says this supplemental information could include demographic data, interest-based data and Internet browsing behavior. The wording is purposefully vague, but it’s fairly standard for online services.
With whom does Netflix share data?
The company’s privacy statement it says it shares information “for limited purposes” including with service providers, third-party companies tied to promotional offers with Netflix and law enforcement (upon request).
Netflix says it may offer joint promotions or programs that, in order for your participation, will require it to share your information with third parties.
For instance, some companies offer Netflix for free for a limited period if you sign up for their Internet service. In that case, you would have a relationship with Netflix through your subscription, and you would have a separate relationship with that provider — and their use of your data would be subject to the terms of that relationship.
What does Netflix allow other companies to do with your info?
It says it doesn’t sell information about its members, and it doesn’t sell ads to other companies or have third-party developers providing applications on its platform.
“Our business is a subscription service model that offers personalized recommendations to you, to help you find shows and movies of interest to you,” said the company in a statement.
Is there a way to download your viewing history?
Not now. Netflix says it’s “looking for additional, improved ways to give members more access to this information, including watch history.”
And what about clearing your Netflix history and starting again? Maybe your teenager binged on your account and messed up your personalized recommendations?
Yes, you can do that. Titles you’ve viewed on Netflix can be found by visiting Netflix.com/ViewingActivity (while signed in to your account), plus this page is also accessible from your Account page on Netflix.com. All titles that you watch will appear on the viewing activity page, unless you choose to hide them. Individual titles or series can be hidden by clicking on the ‘X’ next to that title or series.
So, what can we access?
Log into your account on click on the “Your Account” option. This page gives access to information, such as email, method of payment, recent billing history, plan information, profiles, viewing activity, recent IP addresses (available under viewing activity), ratings and reviews. In nearly all cases, the information members are looking for can be found on this page, says Netflix.
If they have questions about their personal information, members can contact Netflix at email@example.com.
Can a customer opt out of sharing?
Users can opt-out of interest-based ads based on cookies via Netflix’s Evidon tool, and based on an advertising identifier (on a mobile device or tablet) by configuring the appropriate setting on the device (usually found under “privacy” or “ads” in the device settings). In both instances, users may still see Netflix ads, but they will not be tailored to likely interests.
Anything else we need to know?
Netflix says it provides the same controls to all members globally through the Account feature, but some regions have different requirements around communications (email, text messaging), and the company says it honors those requirements at registration by providing appropriate options at that time, and again in the Account feature.
Members can cancel their subscription at any time. It is Netflix’s standard practice to automatically delete accounts if they remain canceled for more than 10 months, unless a member requests earlier deletion by contacting the company at firstname.lastname@example.org from the email address associated with his or her account.
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