Last week, Netflix decided to have some holiday fun courtesy of its user data. So the streaming service took to Twitter to pose the question, “To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?”
The tweet was meant to be an entertaining jab at a cheesy holiday film that the company released last month. But while many saw the humor, others were creeped out by the specificity of the information, with some complaining that Netflix appeared to be using its data in a flip manner that mocked some customers.
It’s no secret that companies, especially those born in the digital age, are amassing deep and detailed troves of information on the habits and preferences of their consumers. For streaming services, that data fuels the recommendations. But companies are also taking a bit of a risk when they turn those findings into marketing, whether through conversational social media posts or advertisements from Spotify with lines like “Take a page from the 3,445 people who streamed the ‘Boozy Brunch’ playlist on a Wednesday this year.”
A message that one person might see as clever and unexpected can just as easily be seen by another as an ominous reminder that Big Data is often lurking just around the corner.
Netflix emphasized that the use of data to better serve users was a main part of its business and that its behavioral data was collected anonymously. The company has frequently shared interesting information about viewers’ habits in the past, said Jonathan Friedland, a Netflix spokesman. He added that last week’s tweet might have inspired an intense reaction in part because “it was brought down to an individual level as opposed to a broader trend level.” But he pointed out that Netflix does not use customer data to sell ads on its platform, as Google and Facebook do, or sell it to other entities.
Source: Maheshwari, S. (2017, December 17). Netflix and Spotify Ask: Can Data Mining Make for Cute Ads? The New York Times.