I remember a lot of people were joking around on social media that “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” was a way for Netflix to collect viewers' "Black Mirror" choices as data for future Netflix original releases. After all, the interactive choose-your-own-adventure release had nearly one trillion different storytelling combinations. Well, guess what folks? Turns out, it was really happening. Apparently, Netflix saved and collected every choice viewers made in ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’
Michael Veale, a technology policy researcher at University College London, told VICE’s Motherboard that he actually reached out to Netflix after people were joking around on social media about the darker intentions of the Bandersnatch release. But actually Veale saw these jokes as being dead-serious and believed Netflix could easily and viably do such a thing.
“People had been speculating a lot on Twitter about Netflix’s motivations,” Veale told Motherboard, “I thought it would be a fun test to show people how you can use data protection law to ask real questions you have.”
Veale reached out to Netflix, citing Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which allows anyone to “request a wealth of information from a company collecting data.” Using GDPR, Veale requested that Netflix release information about “the reason its collecting data, the categories they’re sorting data into, third parties it’s sharing the data with, and other information.”
Netflix replied to Veale via email by saying that it was indeed collecting viewers’ “Black Mirror” choices as data to “inform the personalized recommendations you see in future visits.” The data will be used to help their algorithm “better recommend tailored content to individual viewers,” according to Veale, adding that it was storing aggregated forms of the users’ choice to “determine how to improve [the show’s] model of storytelling.”