Netflix has become a success because it utilized faster Internet and mobile technology. Now over 75 million subscribers are making binge-watching a common experience.

Netflix is skilled at recommending shows to watch. Netflix plans to offer ads to its customers, and predictions estimate that it could generate a $1 billion windfall.

“Streaming content is increasingly reliant on data collected about you,” says Pat Walshe, a data protection and privacy consultant who investigated Netflix’s data use. This includes what you watched and when you watched it, where you paused and stopped, the devices you used to watch the content, and where you were at the time.

Netflix keeps any information it can to make its streaming experience more personalized, including email and phone numbers.

What data does Netflix collect?

Netflix collects the following information:

  • Netflix’s communication settings allow you to customize what updates you receive from them.
  • Your Netflix marketing preferences can be accessed via your Profile & Parental Controls.
  • Your payment and billing details will be stored including information about what we do with your payment for your Netflix subscription.
  • Netflix has a history of your viewing activity and information on the titles which are stored under Profile & Parental Controls.
  • Netflix tracks devices and logs IP address usage.

According to Walshe, when you do things in the digital world, such as watching a Netflix show, you’re leaving data points behind on their servers. This goes beyond Netflix’s ability to better serve customers by making recommendations. They can also use it to gain insight into where viewers stop watching a TV show and improve future content.

How Netflix gathers and uses information about you

Netflix collects data such as your device, geo-location, browser type, and payment information. They use this data to inform their recommendations based on other users who have similar tastes to you.

To understand how Netflix collects data, you requested all your data from the company and found Netflix knows you are in the UK and a specific region. It collects information about devices you’ve used. It goes back as far as 2015, and customer data is being collected to answer the question of whether companies should keep data that long.

The gender and income bracket are indicated from the devices being used. Your beliefs, values, and cultural backgrounds can be identified through what you watch on Netflix. These details can be obtained by anyone with access to your internet account which is shared with someone else.

If you share an account with your partner, flatmate, or family member, you will be able to see what they are watching. Sharing passwords also means that others will have read access to all of your information. If you request a download for your data, then the other person could get their information— but you can’t do the same.

How much information can we control over Netflix?
  • It was rumored that Netflix wanted to test out a “private” mode. Like the privacy mode in a web browser, this would allow you to watch a movie or TV show but not have Netflix remember it. The idea of being able to watch what you want without human interference is appealing because people fear a bias in their selection of content.
  • Netflix does have its private account, but it never launched. You can still keep your account private, however, by using the available tools on Netflix.
  • For Netflix, you can use five profiles so that each person can keep their preferences private. They can also be used to keep watched lists and kid’s videos that you want to watch separately.
  • The Netflix recommendation system can be hit or miss. It may find you the perfect thing to watch, or it could just guess wildly. There is a reason for this.
  • Netflix knows what movies you like and uses that information to recommend other TV shows. The possibilities seem endless, even with 76,897 genres.
Is my data safe on Netflix?

With Netflix becoming more and more popular, it is also attracting criminals with serious consequences.

Hackers are targeting Netflix to steal users’ passwords and bank credentials, through phishing campaigns and Trojan malware. Malicious hackers search for “Netflix” online and once they find a customer, they get their bank/credit card information.

The company has a warning on its website that states that any account changes would alert the real subscriber to unauthorized activity. Users could use stolen Netflix accounts on the black market. These accounts are likely just the tip of the iceberg, as these scams are not one-offs, but rather designed to be part of a business model that feeds the deep web economy.

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