Yes, Netflix recorded and saved all the choices you made watching the ‘Bandersnatch’ movie

Yes, Netflix recorded and saved all the choices you made watching the ‘Bandersnatch’ movie
When Netflix released its choose-your-own-adventure ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ movie in December, viewers joked that the streaming service might be using it as an experiment to harvest data. Well, it turns out they were right.

The ‘Bandersnatch’ movie offered viewers the ability to make choices for the characters by allowing them to pick between options presented on the screen at crucial and not-so-crucial moments. One of the choices given to viewers early in the movie was whether the protagonist should eat Frosties or Sugar Puffs for breakfast, for example. The choices users made determined how the movie progressed, and ultimately, which ending they would see.

With speculation rife that the movie was just an elaborate data-gathering experiment, Michael Veale, a technology and data protection researcher at University College London, decided to look into it.

Using Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which allows a person to request information on a company’s data collection, Veale used his right of access and asked Netflix about ‘Bandersnatch.’ The researcher told Vice’s Motherboard that he thought it would be “a fun test to show people how you can use data protection law to ask real questions you have.”

Responding to Veale, Netflix said they used a person’s interactions with the movie to “determine which video segment to play” next, but admitted that they also stored those decisions to “inform the personalized recommendations” that users see in “future visits to the service.” Netflix said that saving the data helps them “perform a range of business analysis operations” and allows them to improve that particular model of storytelling. Netflix did not say, however, how long they plan to store the data.

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Oddly, users can actually request a copy of all the choices they have made on Netflix to date, which will be sent through encrypted email as a PDF file with a data key provided by Netflix. Veale posted his personal file on Twitter showing all of the choices he had made while watching ‘Bandersnatch.’

Veale said that he has asked further questions of Netflix which are still being processed, including a request for an “exhaustive list of specific purposes of processing” the data in question.

The fact that Netflix is saving this kind of user data should not really be surprising, given the amount of personal data already being hoovered up by companies like Facebook. In December, a New York Times report revealed how Facebook was allowing unhindered access to users’ personal data as part of deals with selected companies, including Netflix.

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