“To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?”, said Netflix US in a completely misguided Tweet. Now, there are a few things that can be said about binge watching, but such semi-public shaming of (paying, mind you) users is simply completely counterproductive, for a service that prides itself on unlimited streaming, no questions asked.
Many were indignant and outraged about these marketing practices. Exposing customers to ridicule in such a brazenly condescending tone is simply bad form and unfunny, and users swiftly pointed that out. The company didn’t budge and the snarky comments continued.
However, the reactions of most of these users were completely misguided, although a few did point that out. There’s a more insidious issue at play here, and it’s the fact that Netflix has access to this kind of data at all. It’s extremely creepy in a very disturbing way – consider this: A more disgruntled employee could have likely identified these users by name!
Of course, the data isn’t used for these purposes all the time. In most cases, it’s being used to purportedly benefit you, by producing tailored recommendations (to keep you binge watching). Netflix also uses viewership data for analytics purposes to determine which shows to develop and renew.
Spotify also ran a similar campaign on Twitter, posting and commenting on users’ wacky and weird playlists. The results were also mixed.
Is Netflix allowed to do this? Of course. No individual was explicitly mentioned and no personal data was leaked. If proper security policies were followed, this would likely be legal even in the EU post-GDPR. Besides it’s all written there, in that long document called ‘Terms of Service’ that nobody ever reads, and if we did, it would take us 200 hours a year!
It would certainly benefit everyone if these services took some more time to acquaint their users with key privacy takeaways. Certainly, it would reduce the potential uproar when this data gets used. The GDPR will force companies to explain how and why they use personal data in a simple manner.
This time, it’s an innocuous if slightly offensive tweet. Next time, it might be a huge breach resembling that of Equifax. By providing quality notices to users, they will feel more empowered when it comes to deciding what data to share, taking into account the potential risks.
Regardless of legality, it’s a good reminder that everything you do online is likely being watched. The bottom line is: expect no privacy. There are some steps you can take to reclaim your privacy, but nothing is foolproof, and getting off the grid is still too painful an option. However, if everything goes right, at least in the EU the GDPR will tip the balance towards the common man.