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Media Report Shows Streaming Platforms Can’t Guarantee Privacy

— August 30, 2021

Popular streaming platforms and apps are not always secure, reports shows.

In 2020, a Common Sense Media report examined the privacy policies of the top online video streaming services and devices.  The organization also set up computer systems to follow where the digital information leaving the streaming video apps or devices went.  The advocacy group found that the companies could use information about what people do on their services to tailor ads to customers or allow other companies to do so.  The report examined Apple TV+, YouTube TV, Disney+, Paramount+, HBO Max, Peacock, Amazon Prime Video, Discovery+,Hulu, and Netflix, TubiTV, Crackle, IMDbTV, and PlutoTV.

The media report findings suggest, “Many viewers know that free streaming apps are most likely selling their personal information, but most viewers may not know that most paid subscription streaming apps are also selling users’ data.  Even more expensive streaming plans with ‘no ads’ or ‘limited ads’ still collect viewing data from use of the app to track and serve users advertisements on other apps and services across the internet. data brokers buy and sell users’ data and share it with other companies for data recombination purposes.

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels

The report indicates further, “Most streaming apps and services like traditional cable TV require a paid monthly subscription to stream unlimited content to any TV or device.  There are also many free streaming apps that make money selling a user’s behavioral or viewing data to third parties and displaying targeted advertisements.  This data includes what shows or movies users watch, what devices are used to watch content, when users watch, what location users watch from, how often they watch, when they binge watch, and what recommended shows they choose to watch.  Some companies use both streams of income, subscription plus data selling.

The organization reported further, “streaming companies could be doing more to keep to themselves the data they collect from American households, carve out exceptions to their information practices to better protect children, and offer more assurances that people’s data won’t be used to blitz customers with advertisements all over the internet or get fed into the dossiers compiled by data middlemen.”

While some companies like Netflix indicate they do not allow third parties to be aware of what shows are being watched, others allow for ad generation based on show preference.  This automatically occurs and most consumers may not put together why there is a playlist of shows auto generated on their screen that seem highly enticing or even why they continue to come across ads while scouring their social for programs that they make a mental note of to check out later.

If Americans are curious as to why information is being gathered, they’re commonly at the mercy of legal jargon in the fine print of documents attached to purchasing agreements which outline how information may be used.  This is neither fun nor easy to navigate.  Sometimes, it’s not even easy to find.

James P. Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media said of the findings, “This should be a wakeup call to the streaming platforms.  These platforms can and should do better, and I think that they will.”


A Thumbs Down for Streaming Privacy


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