Almost every video streaming service except Apple TV+ is selling your data to third-party companies and tracking your viewing habits for targeted ads. A new report from Common Sense Media exposes the loose privacy policies employed by most streaming providers, including Amazon and Netflix.
“Many viewers know that free streaming apps are most likely selling their personal information, but most viewers may not know that most paid sub‐ scription streaming apps are also selling users’ data,” warns the report.
Most video streaming services enjoy glowing satisfaction rates — much higher than those obtained by traditional cable TV services. The ability to watch what you want, when you want, and without ads is all too sweet.
But that luxury comes at a cost — and it’s not just the monthly fee you spend on a subscription. Common Sense Media has been digging into the privacy policies of the top streaming services in the U.S. and found that almost all of them, with the exception of Apple TV+, are also making money off your data.
Only Apple TV+ takes your privacy seriously
“Even more expensive streaming plans with ‘no ads’ or ‘limited ads’ still collect viewing data … to track and serve users advertisements on other apps and services,” the report explains. “Also, data brokers buy and sell users’ data and share it with other companies for data recombination purposes.”
So, what exactly is each streaming service up to? Well, most streaming services, including, Disney+, Discovery+, HBO Max, Hulu, Peacock, and Paramount+ say they sell user data, serve targeted ads based on viewing habits, and track users on other apps.
Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and somewhat surprisingly YouTube TV, say they do not sell user data. But they do track users — both on their platforms and across other apps and online services — to deliver targeted ads. All of these services get a “warning” rating from Common Sense Media.
Apple TV+ plays it safe
There’s only one streaming service that doesn’t do any of these things. Apple TV+ promises not to sell your data, display targeted advertisements, or track your habits across other apps and services. As a result, it’s the only streaming service that earns a “pass” from Common Sense Media.
Only Apple TV+ and YouTube TV are considered “good” when it comes to data collection, while Netflix is rated “fair” and all the others are “average.” YouTube TV is “best” for data security, while Apple TV+ is rated “good.” The others are either “fair” or “average.”
Sadly, there’s little you can do to avoid these practices, other than not using streaming services altogether. And with different platforms offering a different catalog of content, it’s not easy to choose one over the other, so many of us end up subscribing to multiple services.