Netflix Saved Your Answers While You Were Playing 'Black Mirror: Bandersnatch'

Netflix's 'Black Mirror: Bandersnatch' was released in late December.

netflix data black mirror

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 13: In this photo iIllustration, the Netflix logo is seen on the screen of an iPhone on February 13, 2019 in Paris, France. Netflix, the US giant of online video subscription, has more than 5 million subscribers in France, 4 and a half years after its arrival in France in September 2014, a spokesman for the company revealed on Wednesday. Netflix offers movies and TV series over the internet and now has 137 million subscribers worldwide. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

netflix data black mirror

If you gave into the Black Mirror: Bandersnatch hype, then you unknowingly provided Netflix with information regarding what it is you want to see in real time. 

In the feature-length installment of the psychological thriller series, viewers were given an interactive opportunity to chose between different scenarios and alter the film's outcome. The choices provided ranged from which obsessive twitch the protagonist gave into, to how best to dispose of his father's dead body. And according to an exchange Michael Veale, a technology researcher at the University College London, had with Netflix, it's clear that the streaming platform has stored all the answers they collected from users

Remember everyone quickly speculating whether Black Mirror: Bandersnatch was a data mining experiment. I used my GDPR right of access to find out more. (short thread) #Bandersnatch

— Michael Veale (@mikarv) February 12, 2019

Netflix claim they only use individual choices to inform which video segments to show, although they do learn from aggregate choices, as would be expected.

— Michael Veale (@mikarv) February 12, 2019

You can also get a copy of all the choices you have made to date, which Netflix does store (I did not ask for how long). They provide it through encrypted email (@virtruprivacy), a PDF file with a data key...

— Michael Veale (@mikarv) February 12, 2019

Veale's aim was to educate people about how to use the law to access the data users may have unknowingly provided, and to demonstrate that companies should make it easier to obtain. “I thought it would be a fun test to show people how you can use data protection law to ask real questions you have," Veale told MotherboardThe venture also highlighted how companies like Netflix oftentimes collect data without explicitly asking for permission. 

The law Veale used to obtain the information is Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which grants users with the ability to request information collected from them by tech giants like Netflix. In addition to being able to request answers as to why their data is being collected, users may also inquire which other companies their information is being shared with. The United States has no similar laws.  

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