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Netflix uses data about users: cool or creepy?

Every time you log in to your Netflix account, you may notice a row of movies recommended just for you. You may scroll through it and actually see a few films you are interested in, or maybe some you have already seen and liked.

How does Netflix know what types of movies you like? While you are surfing the Internet looking for Kate Spade sunglasses or WebpageFX SEO, Netflix is busy analyzing thousands of bits of data about its customers that it hopes will make their experience more customized and enjoyable.

How Do They Do It?

One way Netflix tries to figure out what you like is by simply looking at the movies you watch and DVDs you rent. Using this information, they can gather basic data like the genres you like and what age range to cater to. They use this data to recommend movies to you that they think you will like.

Eventually, they want to be able to perfectly predict what their customers want and give it to them. Analyzing the data is the first step.

I’m Gonna Recommend This to You and You’re Gonna LIKE It!

Sometimes Netflix analyzers get tripped up when they are looking at what people enjoy because people usually like more than one kind of movie. The variations in peoples’ tastes can throw a kink in Netflix’s data.

Netflix also tries to compensate for what’s called the popularity factor, which basically encompasses the phenomenon of everyone watching a movie because it’s new and popular, not because it’s based on their on personal tastes.

What Else Do They See?

Did you know Netflix is studying your Facebook account, Twitter page, your searches on their home page and even where you are located? They want to know about every streaming movie you watched, whether you finished it, and how many times you paused it or fast-forwarded it. They are using all of this personalized information about you simply to recommend movies!

Is it invasive? Is it insane? Who knows? Netflix insists all the research helps give their customers the ultimate viewing experience. Admittedly, customers are watching three-quarters of what Netflix recommends.

Why Does Netflix Care What We Watch?

Netflix doesn’t carry everything we want to see on its streaming service, and there has been a lot of news about that recently. For example, if you want to see that new documentary about an Internet marketer, Netflix may not carry it. So they use the recommendations as a way to point out things you will enjoy and lessen your frustration when you can’t find what you really want.

Also, when people watch a movie Netflix recommends, it will recommend another movie, and so on, and so on. Pretty soon you’re watching all kinds of movies that Netflix recommended, though not necessarily the ones you were originally looking for.

Improving Your Recommendations

If you use Netflix frequently and want to tailor your recommendations to see what comes up, review movies you’ve already seen and review as many and as frequently as you can. This is the best way Netflix can gauge what you are watching and enjoying in order to make new recommendations to you.

Guest post by Carl Glasmyre, whose passion for technology encompasses everything from Netflix recommendations to WebpageFX SEO.