» » Netflix Perfoms A Self-Own With A Tweet About Viewing Habits

Netflix Perfoms A Self-Own With A Tweet About Viewing Habits

 
 
Yesterday Netflix started sharing some data about its viewers. A series of Tweets, intended to be some light end-of-year relief, have backfired with some people questioning how seriously Netflix is taking data privacy and others mentioning that it's just a bit creepy to call out people who watch certain things a lot.

Netflix "Mariah Carey's Merriest Christmas" US
✔@netflix

To the 53 people who've watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?
6:52 PM - Dec 10, 2017

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The tweets were simple enough, suggesting that a film had been watched by a single person an implausible number of times. Or that a certain number of people had watched a specific thing a surprising amount. It's not clear if this is real data, or if the whole thing was a PR exercise using made up numbers. Either way, the reaction has been complicated.
 
For one thing some people are worried about privacy. If this data is real, then is Netflix making it available to anyone in the company who has access to the social media accounts? Personally, I doubt this, I'd expect that any social campaign like this would use data farmed by senior PR people, and then that anonymised information passed to the social team. It seems likely that Netflix would use real data, or the whole thing feels pointless as well as tone-deaf.
Some people also mentioned that the tone was somewhat callous. For example, there was some other data floating around about Bee Movie and how one person had watched it 357 times. But try as I might, I can't actually get a source for this fact. It's not in the press release other people are citing. In fact the only mention I can find for it is on the original Business Insider story. I've shot an email to a PR, but Netflix doesn't make it easy to get the right local contact.

Also, it is worth noting that some users either have disabilities or family with them. With some of those - for example Autism - it's quite likely that the person will have slightly different entertainment tastes and totally different ways of using Netflix - here's a Tweet from journalist Kate Solomon making that exact point.
Kate Solomon@katiesol
Can’t say this is definitely the case here but lots of people with learning disabilities engage with pop culture in ways you don’t necessarily understand. Cool also to publicly drag your customers for enjoying something you provide and they pay for, real nice!!! https://twitter.com/netflix/status/940051734650503168 …
11:26 PM - Dec 11, 2017

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I know of a family that used VHS players in this way so their autistic child could watch movies, rewind them (in a tactile way) then play them again. They went through a lot of VHS players and tapes, but when your child struggles to communicate their happiness means the world to you. Eventually this progressed to using an iPad in the same way, and that could account for some of Netflix' weird stats. But also, as Solomon points out above, it doesn't seem very nice to mock people for that. And yes, the tone of the Tweet Netflix sent was a little bit condescending, in my view at least.
Netflix' press office also does a "year in review" blog post. However it's explicit in that release that it does not collect this data from what people do on the service, but rather a survey of 60,000 members. A weird way for a company with so much data to act, especially if it then ruins that with a series of tweets. Even so, that post still mentions stats that couldn't have come from a survey.
So what do I think about this? Well, it's a bit of a self-own. Data can be great fun, and there are ways to get it without making people twitchy about their privacy. For example, I strongly oppose my government's suggestion that ISPs should keep metadata about sites I visit for a year. This data is easy to abuse, the government in the UK has shown it's not exactly got the necessary IT smarts and it could damage the lives of people.
Weirdly, I trust Netflix more, and I don't honestly care if people know I'm obsessed with The Good Place.
Follow me on Twitter @IanMorris78 or Google+ and read all of my Forbes articles on my profile page. I also regularly appear on the Tech's Message Podcast which you can find on ACast.
 
Source; Forbes.com
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