When is Data Collected?
You might be wondering if your specific device, service, or cord-cutting method are exempt from collecting data on you. The truth is that every service out there is watching you. They might be using different trackers and pay attention to different metrics, but there’s no way to escape data collection. Honestly, all technology is tracking you to some degree, so this isn’t out of the norm for any device or service.
These devices all pay attention to slightly different things, but in general, you can expect information to be collected whenever you use the device. Some also pay attention to when you’re not using the device because that’s just as useful. Useful for what? We’ll talk about this more in the next section.
This article isn’t about scaring you, more about informing you. I’m not going to tell you that cord-cutting is awful or that you need a tinfoil hat, but you should be knowledgeable of what they’re looking for. As stated above, the metrics are different depending on the service and device but understand that each of them is collecting info on you. This means that services like Netflix and Hulu, and platforms like Roku and Fire TV are recording and analysing your viewing habits.
So, what do they want? You’re a veritable goldmine of advertising opportunity. Sure, they want to know what you’re watching, but there’s so much more than that. They want to know when you watch, how often you pause videos, when you stop watching, what shows you go to next, how you search for information, what ads you pay attention to and which you skip, what devices you’re using (phone, tablet, TV, computer, etc), and so much more.
Any action you do or don’t do (ie: clicking on an ad or not clicking an ad) is collected and stored for later use.
Purpose of Collecting Data
Big names are interested in your data. We’re talking about Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other big brands. Why? It’s all for advertising. On your end, that means that the ads will be different and will be more tailored to your unique profile. Some people won’t see a problem with this. It’s annoying to see the same irrelevant commercial eight times in a row (for example, you seriously don’t want to buy a car but all the commercials are about the newest models). As more info is collected, you’ll see ads that you do care about. That could be seen as good for some people. Finally, you’re seeing things that you like and you’ll gladly buy the newest product.
That’s exactly why this information is being collected from your streaming device. Advertisers will know what you want, which ensures they show you the right products and services that you’re interested in and willing to open your wallet for. Unlike regular TV, where the ads are broadcasted for a wide audience and they are hoping to target as many people as possible, these trackers allow more personal ads to be targeted to smaller groups.
For example, let’s say there’s a new small business out there with a product you’d be interested in, but there’s no way for them to afford a commercial on primetime TV. However, they can afford the smaller fee (and admittedly smaller reach) of online advertising and now they can reach you. When phrased that way it doesn’t seem too bad. Now smaller businesses can reach their intended audience.
However, the insidious side is that now there are even more great things out there to pay for. Now you’ll be more inclined to spend money on all these amazing things as they come your way.
Can You Prevent Data Tracking?
If there is room to customize what is collected, then you can usually turn this feature off or limit how much data is collected when you watch shows and movies. The downside of this is that you’ll likely see lots of irrelevant ads they might repeat over and over (since there’s no data being collected about whether you saw the ad yet, the streaming service wouldn’t be able to verify if you really saw that ad yet or not). This could get annoying, but it’s a minor downside.
Cord-cutting and streaming is still a great option. While there will be some information collected about you to ensure better advertising, the truth is that the data isn’t incriminating or damaging (like how biometric data could be), and at this point, it’s only used for advertising. That’s not great and it might lead to you spending more money, but if you’re conscious about it and limit the data collection if possible, then it’s not that bad. At worst, now you can enjoy some better commercials.