Quarantine and chill: Here's the information the Netflix stores about you

With a growing number of people around the world self-isolating at home, people are looking for ways to keep themselves entertained. What better way than binge-watching the TV series you have been meaning to but did not have the time?
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor

Before you get comfortable in front of the TV, ready to ride out your life under lockdown, are you aware of all the data Netflix stores on you?

Although the predominant method of streaming is still TV, watching on-the-go has seen a rise with 15% of people using Netflix on their smartphones or tablet devices. Yet the freedom to stream anywhere comes at a price. As you grant access to your data to companies such as Netflix, are you putting your personal information at risk?

Consumers often assume that their favorite digital entertainment brands are taking care of their data when they are enjoying their content, but are they?

From total hours watched, to your most-watched categories, London-based Apple device backup extracting company Reincubate wanted to discover how we are using the entertainment app Netflix. Its Netflix and Your Data study reveals we share more than we think. It also shows how much data Netflix stores on us compared to what it declares on its privacy policy.

The raw data for each user provides insight into the ways Netflix may be able to build up a detailed picture of each user. Using only the data stored, and in-app behavior that users might not consider, Netflix knows the average time spent watching, to whether users saw a movie or episode to completion or not.

Netflix is used by 85% of US streaming subscribers who subscribe to the channel. Average users watch two hours per day. On average, we finish 77% of the content we start with. Only 6% of what we watch are movies, and 94% are episodes.

In the final quarter of 2019, Netflix had over 167 million paying streaming subscribers worldwide as well as over 4.6 million free trial customers. Of these subscribers, 61.04 million were from the USand 106.1 million are international users. Its revenue stands at $20.1 billion, up from $1.6b billion 10 years ago.

Netflix keeps track of the following user data: Most-watched categories, most-watched lists, the total number of hours spent watching Netflix, number of minutes spent watching each flix (Netflix item), the title, episode, description, and type of content (movie or episode) watched, date last viewed, flix completed and unfinished, whether the user is the Netflix account owner, and whether the flix was watched on a mobile device.

With over nine pages of text, it is easy to see why people click accept without reading the Netflix privacy policy thoroughly. The table below shows what we can extract from Netflix and what it documents in its privacy policy.

Quarantine and Chill Here's the information the Netflix stores about you zdnet

When it comes to time spent on the entertainment streaming app, the survey showed that, on average, we spend 58 hours watching Netflix on smartphones or tablet devices. We can't seem to do without it.

Almost three out of five (59%) of US 16- to 34-year-olds say that Netflix is indispensable compared to just over one in three (35%) of those aged over 35.

From the data, the study showed that US TV programs, documentaries, and action and adventure are the top three most-viewed categories across all the devices examined, and usage is increasing -- legally or not.

Although Netflix has stated that they will limit the number of times its subscribers can share their passwords with friends and family, the study found that all of the users shared their accounts with at least one other person, and four of the five users shared their account with four or more users.

Aidan Fitzpatrick, Founder and CEO at Reincubate said: 

"With over 160 million streaming subscribers, Netflix finds themselves in a unique position. They're able to create a detailed profile on their subscribers by using data to discover customer behavior and their buying patterns.

Netflix explains that streaming in HD uses up to 3GB per hour: That's a lot of data, and there's a lot of opportunity within that for data collection. Do users understand that so much data is tracked?"

Users can gain access to data stored about them and their devices by various companies. But as technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, it becomes more important to safeguard your data - and know how much companies know about you.

Previous and related coverage

Where do the tech giants send your data?

Although we find our digital lives convenient with notifications, streamed music, messages, and emails, remember the tech companies are ruling our lives.

One in four Americans won't do business with data-breached companies

With so many large-scale data breaches at major companies, is it possible for brands to regain consumer confidence again?

Office Depot reveals habits of US tech device users

Apple, Samsung and all the rest do keep consumers busy with new and desirable tech devices, but how often do Americans really get around to upgrading their devices?

Vankyo V600 projector hands-on: Perfect for business or home theater use

The Vanyo V600 is a nice reasonably priced portable projector for business and home use and bright enough to use in daylight

Editorial standards