bandersnatch answers

In a move that, honestly, we all should’ve seen coming, it looks like Netflix saved everyone’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch answers. The streaming service has been mining all that data ever since the choose-your-own-adventure dropped, and they’re being tight-lipped about how long they plan to hang onto it. While this may seem relatively harmless, all things considered, there’s a certain invasion of privacy angle here that seems like it would be right at home in, well…a Black Mirror episode.

At the end of 2018, Netflix dropped Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, a choose-your-own-adventure experience that let viewers decide how the narrative unfolded. It made headlines, caused Twitter buzz, and made for an interesting – if not always successful – experience. Some people immediately began to wonder what Netflix was doing with the data, though – assuming that the streaming service would use it to help create future programs. According to Motherboard, Michael Veale, a technology policy researcher at University College London, had this same thought.

Veale used Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation – which is kind of like the Freedom of Information Act for tech – to ask Netflix about Bandersnatch, and confirmed that the theories are correct – Netflix is storing everyone’s Bandersnatch answers. Veale revealed his findings on Twitter.

Spooky! Just what is Netflix doing with this data? “They claim they’re doing the processing as it’s ‘necessary’ for performing the contract between me and Netflix,” Veale said “Is storing that data against my account really ‘necessary’? They clearly haven’t delinked it or anonymized it, as I’ve got access to it long after I watched the show. If you asked me, they should really be using consent (which you should be able to refuse) or legitimate interests (meaning you can object to it) instead.”

Netflix plans to use the data to “inform the personalized recommendations you see in future visits” and “determine how to improve [the show’s] model of storytelling.”

You could look at this and say: “What’s the big deal? Who cares if Netflix is saving what kind of cereal I choose for the main character?” That’s not the point, though. It’s a slippery slope, and Netflix didn’t bother to add a disclaimer warning viewers they were keeping the data. And if they can do this for Bandersnatch, who knows what they’ll do with future choose-your-own-adventure content. Netflix also declined to reveal how long they’ll hold onto the data. All of this is ironic, since the idea of participating in something “fun” that’s actually spying on you sounds like a story ripped right out of a Black Mirror episode. Cue the throbbing electronic music and cracked glass.

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