Netflix… an entertainment revolution or a privacy breach?
May 21, 2020 0

Is Netflix invading our privacy?

Netflix has reported 15 million new subscriptions to their network since the beginning of 2020, coming out with positive figures in comparison to many international companies that are incurring huge losses due to the current economic situation around the world. Since the COVID-19 virus has surfaced, it forced the closure of nearly all types of outdoor entertainment and forced many people to stay home, this situation made the demand for digital entertainment to spike, specifically Netflix.

Netflix is an American owned company that first started buying the broadcasting rights of several movies and TV shows, and then began to produce its own shows, such as the wildly popular show “House of Cards”. Although Netflix broadcasts its shows through the internet, it has invaded nearly every device we own around the house due to the service they provide of high quality entertainment that suits a wide spectrum of preferences and targets a diverse group of people.

This phenomenon made us ask an important and controversial question:

Did Netflix revolutionize the entertainment industry and the world of visual art? Or was it a mean devoted to the loss of our identity and privacy?


a revolution in the art and entertainment industry

Viewing flexibility and entertainment freedom

It’s known that Netflix has a hugely diverse library of content and is distinguished by its wide popularity for its original productions compared to its competitors, which makes it the perfect digital entertainment choice, as it satisfies a large number of tastes and trends and subscribers are free to choose from this wide range of content.
Since this huge library is always available online, subscribers can choose what to watch anytime, anywhere and on any devise they prefer. Netflix has the advantage of not displaying advertisements on its platform, so the relationship is directly with the viewer, away from the exploitation of advertisers and TV channels, so the viewer is free from the restrictions of both channels and advertisers.

Artificial intelligence and content suggestions

Netflix employs artificial intelligence when recommending movies and TV shows that suit the user specifically. Algorithms observe the interaction of users with the content they follow based on the quality and duration of the content, and after that movies and TV shows of similar style are proposed, so the viewer will spend less time in searching for the right movie or show to start. On the other hand, the company gathers this information related to the users’ behaviors on the platform, analyzes it, and uses it to produce content that suits the desires of viewers.



Loss of identity and privacy

Loss of identity and globalization

A Netflix subscriber may notice that the streaming service giant often depend on dedicating one style of life and adopting controversial narratives with often intellectual and political orientation. Despite the diversity some shows are portraying and the different countries that Netflix sets its production in, you can notice that usually it reflects the American way of life, it’s just taking place in a different country. Perhaps the most prominent example is the recent Jordanian series “Jinn”, which caused a huge wave of controversy when it was released.
Some studies have reported that Netflix intends to normalize many controversial ideas; such as adopting the Israeli narrative when mentioning the Arab-Israeli conflict, or the placement of homosexual references repeatedly, even though there is no dramatic necessity for it.
So here we see that Netflix contributes to the loss of identities in many local cultures and perpetuates a globalized culture dominated by the American way of life.

Privacy invasion and the delusion of choice

The use of artificial intelligence to suggest content based on user behaviors is not as good as people might think. These algorithms study users’ lifestyles, way of thinking, behaviors, tendencies, and any other relevant information. This information is gathered and used to market their new productions and therefore achieve profits based on people’s data, an aspect that many may not want to be shared, and this is a clear breach of users’ privacy.

In addition to that the streaming service gives the user the illusion of being free to choose what to watch, but in reality, the user is exposed to a game of psychological control using specific artificial intelligence techniques, perhaps the most dangerous technique is limiting the viewer to what is known as the bubble effect, which may lead to increased intolerance and extremism towards certain ideas and neglecting the other side of the spectrum. This is so because the viewer is not exposed to seeing content outside the “bubble” which include the views and ideas that were recognized by the artificial intelligence algorithms.

Written By: Jaber Abuhumaid – Debate coach at QatarDebate

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