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How Netflix Implements Big Data Is All about You
Todd Yellin   Apr 10, 2016   Big Think  

Yellin appreciates the simplicity of the subscription model on which Netflix depends. While making the on-demand entertainment company entirely beholden to their customers for success, unlike Google and Facebook which draw substantial revenue from advertisers, it simplifies their understanding of big data. Ultimately it means serving one master, the customer, instead of two.

Netflix internet streaming commits three inexcusable and intolerable injustices against its customers: DRM, ELUAs, and surveillance.

DRM, Digital Restrictions Management, means technical measures to control and restrict users. In this case, viewing the Netflix stream requires running a nonfree program whose reason for existence is to restrict what users do with the data in their own computers.

Nonfree software, in itself, is an injustice, because it means the users do not control their own computing -- instead, it is controlled by some company (in this case, by Netflix). The power that the company obtains through a nonfree program, it can then use to impose malicious functionalities, such as DRM. For more about this issue, see

For long lists of malicious functionalities in nonfree software you know about, and may even use, see

Another injustice of Netflix is that it imposes vicious contracts, called End User License Agreements, that restrict users more strictly than copyright law does. If you but a video disk, you have some rights to the copy you own. Netflix demands that its customers sign away those rights. We should never agree to such contracts.

Finally, Netflix keeps track of what each subscriber watches. Regardless of what use Netflix makes of that data, simply collecting it is an injustice. Once data are collected, they WILL be misused. In this case, that can be done by Netflix, by rogue employees, by crackers that steal the data from Netflix, or by Big Brother. We must reject, indeed forbid, systems that surveil users, other than suspects
designated by courts on specific valid grounds. See

Any one of these injustices would be enough to convince me to reject Netflix, because I value my freedom. We must not encourage Netflix by being its customers. DRM that we are unable to break is such a threat to liberty that we must never make peace with it.

Thus, when a friend invited me to watch some video with her on her computer using Netflix, I refused in defense of liberty. Even though I would agree to no EULA (she would agree), and Netflix would not know I was watching (it would know only her), it would have been wrong for me to legitimize Netflix and unjust practices.

Instead I made the sacrifice of not watching that video with her -- a rather small sacrifice, as sacrifices go. We can all do that.

The only copies of videos that are offered to us without attacking our freedom are the ones being redistributed without authorization. For freedom's sake, we must reject all others.
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