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Television Media Privacy

Should Plex Stop Allowing Users To Opt Out of Data Collection? (www.plex.tv) 158

UPDATE: Plex has now made more changes to their privacy policy to address concerns about data collection, including "the ability to opt out of playback statistics for personal content on your Plex Media Server" and a promise "to 'generalize' playback stats in order to make it impossible to create any sort of 'fingerprint' that would allow anyone to identify a file in a library."

Here's what the original kerfuffle was about. Slashdot reader bigdogpete wrote: Many users of Plex got an email that said they were changing their privacy policy which goes into effect on 20 September 2017. While most of the things are pretty standard, users found it odd that they were now not going to allow users to opt-out of data collection. Here is the part from their website explaining the upcoming changes.

"In order to understand the usage across the Plex ecosystem and how we need to improve, Plex will continue to collect usage statistics, such as device type, duration, bit rate, media format, resolution, and media type (music, photos, videos, etc.). We will no longer allow the option to opt out of this statistics collection, but we do not sell or share your personally identifiable statistics. Again, we will not collect any information that identifies libraries, files, file names, and/or the specific content stored on your privately hosted Plex Media Servers. The only exception to this is when, and only to the extent, you use Plex with third-party services such as Sonos, Alexa, webhooks, and Last.fm."

What do you all think?

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Should Plex Stop Allowing Users To Opt Out of Data Collection?

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  • Meh. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by firebeaker ( 52242 ) on Saturday August 19, 2017 @03:36PM (#55049041) Homepage

    Don't like it, don't use it.

    • Re:Meh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Aisha.Washington ( 4531453 ) on Saturday August 19, 2017 @03:58PM (#55049123)
      Well, there you go.

      Spend hours, maybe dozens, maybe hundreds of hours establishing your data on a particular platform, have them insert a sentence in the "TOS" some random month, and "If you don't like it, don't use it!"

      Most companies make it all but impractical for anyone without massive amounts of free time to "switch if you don't like it". This is completely on-purpose, and it has the effect of locking people into whatever the changes are. Not just Plex, but thing Microsoft & Apple. They make changes to platforms people have many thousands of dollars invested in, only to tell them "If you don't like it, switch."

      Then, predictably, you have the group of users which champion the company's line ... hey everyone, don't like it, switch ... bait & switch is completely legitimate in 2017 for some. I mean, it's not like you could have made an educated decision before using the product, which is far more in line with what the "Free Market" has in mind. Not, making the "free choice" encumbers the decider with countless hours of countless dollars to reject changes they don't agree with.

      Which is just the way the companies like it.

      Then, after spending years barking at people to “Switch if you don’t like it!”, you wake up one morning and realize that there’s no one left to switch to; that every single company in the industry now has the exact same policies.

      It’s at this point that the argument evolves to: “If you don’t like it, don’t use it!”

      After all, nobody really NEEDS a computer. Or a cellphone. Or the internet. Or refrigeration or shoes for that matter. Or, probably one of truest of all claims videos to watch for entertainment.

      If you want something, agree to the terms, no matter how nefarious they may be, regardless of when they are instituted. This ameliorates all notions of competition and free market dynamics, but those concepts are for queers anyway.

      Give in, or stare out the window all day and do nothing.

      The Unites States of America in 2017. Pining for the good old days is an oft-repeated thing, and proven to by a myth in many cases, but whether it’s reality or just my perception, things sure do feel different these days.

      • Well, there you go.

        Spend hours, maybe dozens, maybe hundreds of hours establishing your data on a particular platform, have them insert a sentence in the "TOS" some random month, and "If you don't like it, don't use it!"

        You never know who has only been online for just a month or few, otherwise we could cut to the chase and simply name every last one one of them after their departure lounge orifice.

        One has to be a staggeringly malignant blockhead to avoid becoming sensitised to this retroactive ass bite in l

        • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
          Emby sucked, last time I looked, and Kodi isn't that great either. I may have to institute some new firewall rules soon. I was going to anyways, this just increases the need.
        • by grub ( 11606 )
          We have tried several media players over the years (PopcornHour hardware, Kodi, etc.) and the best we've found is Infuse Pro for iOS. Works on AppleTV 4th gen beautifully. Presents a Netflix-like interface with fetched metadata. Ours mounts a RO NFS share on a NAS4Free server.

          No relation other than a very satisfied customer.
      • Well, there you go.

        Spend hours, maybe dozens, maybe hundreds of hours establishing your data on a particular platform, have them insert a sentence in the "TOS" some random month, and "If you don't like it, don't use it!"

        I never invested a bunch of effort into Plex in the the first place, because this outcome was always plausible. Lo and behold, I made the right decision, and you (?) made the wrong one.

        If you don't want this to happen to you, then don't invest your energy in something with central control like this.

        • Heck, I didn't even invest the time yet to see what it is. I guess because I don't view ads, that's why I didn't know about it?

          [looks it up]

          Shit, we had free solutions for this already in the 90s. Why do people even try new ones, didn't they ever get anything working?

          That said, the data sharing you can't opt out of is only related to third party services. Services suck, use files, not services. And it appears to be open source. But there is no apparent need to fork, just don't use third party services. Duh.

          • The appeal to Plex is that it's everything in one place. If you have to go to multiple places, it's got less appeal.

            It sure would be nice if the Kodi folks could get their library sharing stuff properly working and documented.

      • by CodeHog ( 666724 )
        "Here we are now entertain us!"
    • only just started on the Plex route, thankfully haven't paid any money yet but I will be taking the "Don't use it" route. I feel sorry though for those that have invested the time and money in the ecosystem who now have to take it up the arse. I guess I should be thankfully they announced before I forked out for the plex pass.
  • Put your foot down (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    No data leaves my devices without my explicit and informed consent.

    • No data leaves my devices without my explicit and informed consent.

      I hope you don't really believe that. Also, it should read "but we do not sell or share your personally identifiable statistics yet." And the whole point of big data for marketing companies is to turn that "non-identifiable statistics" into identifiable statistics.

      • But they have done things right, they have changed the rules to report on viewing in the 3rd party app installs in order for the providers of those apps to serve ads. They did a key facts email, made the changes clear, and from a diff of the TOS have stuck to it. They have also kept the TOS, therefore the contract between paying plus customers and them, clear in the privacy for content served from their own devices. While, technically, yes, they could change that bit silently - firstly that wouldn't be bind
        • ahhh yes, the excuse of we told you what we were going to do to you loud and clear before we raped you, therefore this is acceptable. I gather you either work for them or are a shill for them. This sets a horrible standard of them changing the TOS and not allowing paying customer's to opt out. It is a massive breach of faith. If the data is so non critical and non invasive then they can fucking well make it optional.
  • That is more than enough info to identify what files the user is playing. Slightly creepy imho.
    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Saturday August 19, 2017 @04:47PM (#55049281) Journal
      Also wholly unneccesary. That line about "helping to improve our product" is always given to justify data collection, but it's often not the main reason and pretty much never the only one. Even if they collect this data to see how their product is being used, do they really know what to do with all that data, gain insights from it, and act accordingly? Or is it just the 90s PHB from Dilbert again, demanding "a database", except these days its "big data"?

      Just listen to your customers instead of spying on them.
  • Betteridge's Law (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Saturday August 19, 2017 @03:41PM (#55049061)

    Apparently based on the headline, the answer is no.

    The followup question, "should anyone keep using Plex?", should also be answered "no."

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is an abuse of Betteridge's Law. It's based on the observation that journalists who don't have enough evidence to confirm their suspicions may run with the story anyway and write the headline as a question to avoid accusations of libel. It's basically a form of clickbait and yellow journalism. The question in this headline is asking for your opinion, not indicating uncertainty about the facts. Betteridge's Law was never intended to apply to headlines like these. Taken to the extreme, every Ask Slashdot

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Betteridge's Law does not apply here.

        I don't believe you. If it were true then you would have titled your post "Does Betteridge's Law apply here?"

  • Par for the Course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aisha.Washington ( 4531453 ) on Saturday August 19, 2017 @03:42PM (#55049067)
    More and more entities make it clear that they could not care less what their users want. If someone feels strongly enough about wanting to disable data collection, they should be allowed to restrict it, of course. It's understandable that people should feel suspicious about these things. After all, isn't it what we all advise them to be?

    "Be concerned about your personal privacy!", we yell at people every day, while expecting them to flawlessly determine which violations are acceptable and not acceptable.

    It's a pretty tall order, and when in doubt, turning off data collection across the board is the sensible thing to do. After all, keeping up with ever-changing TOS and user "Agreements" is, at this point, patently impossible ... and you never know when their data collection policies are going to change. We've all seen 1,000 times promises made, only to be broken later when the company is purchased, partnered, etc.

    • Didn't the TOS say it is only for installed 3-rd party apps to serve ads in their 3rd part content? If you don't want that, don't install the 3rd party apps and don't consume their content at the expense of this.
      • by Calydor ( 739835 )

        Yeah, that's what the ToS says.

        Now.

        In a year, once they have a LOT of data on their users, the ToS can change again to allow sharing all data they have with their partners, subsidiaries, bedfellows etc.

        I mean, we just saw right now that the ToS can change how they handle data, didn't we?

      • Or, even better, don't use Plex.

  • by iCEBaLM ( 34905 )

    n/t

  • Whatever comes first, a fork or just a patch that disables this.
  • I think I made the right choice when I stopped using Plex a couple years ago. They've been heading down a path I don't particularly like for some time now.

    But if you're happy with them, more power to you.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Never heard of it before, like 99% of the crap /. takes for granted that everyone knows and uses.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      https://duckduckgo.com/?q=Plex

  • by fear025 ( 763732 ) on Saturday August 19, 2017 @04:00PM (#55049139)

    I've been pretty happy using Universal Media Server instead of Plex.

    I checked them both out last year when looking for the best way to steam stuff from my network to my Samsung Smart TV, and I was much more comfortable with UMS. It's been working fine ever since for my purposes.

  • Plex is starting down a slippery slope. I liked to use Plex precisely because I could opt out of the data collection. Oh well, it was a good run while it lasted.
  • by OneHundredAndTen ( 1523865 ) on Saturday August 19, 2017 @04:14PM (#55049189)
    That something else will appear to take up its place. In this environment, that is what happens when people start getting heavy handed.
  • Should have done it long ago .... Plex server virtual appliance, welcome to the WAN blacklist. Enjoy.
  • Looks like I'm switching to some kind of Kodi powered solution instead of Plex. Bye Plex
  • by Phelan ( 30485 ) on Saturday August 19, 2017 @04:56PM (#55049321)

    This feels like Plex is trying to get rid of their old time lifetime subs. I'd imagine long time users of Plex are probably more technologically astute and more likely to care about this sort of privacy change... so why not change it, get delicious data and see if you can drop some of those guys that don't make you any more money. Nah... they wouldn't do that, right?

  • Plex has made it ludicrously clear that the change of TOS only applies to the 3rd party apps for the purpose of ad-serving, in the scope of the apps only.

    Two things here:

    • 1) They actually did a short key facts summary, rather than leaving people to sort through their TOS for changes, and from what I can see with a diff on the TOS have kept to it.
    • 2) The TOS still do not allow any reporting on media provided 'personally' and from personal sources.

    So, from what I can see, they are monitoring in the right way

    • Plex has made it ludicrously clear that the change of TOS only applies to the 3rd party apps for the purpose of ad-serving, in the scope of the apps only.

      You keep saying this as if it somehow makes the situation any better.

  • by Stan92057 ( 737634 ) on Saturday August 19, 2017 @05:19PM (#55049425)
    Free versions no that's the cost of getting a free product. BUT any paid for version They have no right to any data except crash data and provide a feedback function that's how it should be for all paid for products and services.IMO
  • I've been using Kodi since it was called XBMC and I actually still have an Xbox one with one installed. However, I switched to Plex when I got Synology NAS and I found it a lot friendlier in usage for family members + it is available on all smart TVs these days + Chromecast support. I don't want to divorce it. As someone mentioned already let's see if new firewall rules will block it. Otherwise if they go with the attitude "stay or switch" I'm wondering if I can get my money back for purchasing Plex app for
    • by Anonymous Coward
      What does getting a Synology NAS have to do with it? I have a Synology as well, but it's just a NAS like any other NAS as far as Kodi or Plex would care.
      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        HELL. You could just point MythTV at that NAS and use it. It's really all down to how well the app in question handles re-scanning all of your media and dealing with the metadata.

        Also not sure about the whole "ease of use thing" there.

        Rube users tend to be good with what they are used to whatever that is. Doesn't matter what it is. Change even the theme and they go ape shit.

        • The Plex server is a downloadable app for Synology NASes. It means the NAS itself runs the server software as well as holds the files, so you don't need another computer running all the time.

          Plex is a LOT easier to set up than MythTV. It doesn't require a more-or-less-dedicated box, and there's a lot less fiddling involved.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The good news is that kodi is finally mature enough to to the 90% of same job without a central server. The live transcoding for low capability/power devices is a moot point for the majority of users, even the shittiest tablets are capable of 1080p

    Also, once the items in your media library are originized and named well enough for plex, kodi will nave zero trouble presenting them.

  • I don't have such Plex problems.

    • by jon3k ( 691256 )

      There is also a paid for Pro edition which further enhances the possibilities of sharing content in your connected household.

      You have to pay to get something as simple as auto-playing a movie split into multiple files or the web based media player. I'll just go back to Kodi.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Never used it personally, but from what I know, it's probably one of the closest replacements to Plex in terms of features and use. It's also open source, so if they ever wanted to try and do something like this, people could fork it.

    YMMV, but I've been well served with either a SMB or NFS server and either an old PC or an nVidia Shield TV running Kodi. It's a client-side solution instead of server-side like Plex and Emby, but if you just make sure to encode everything to a format that your playback device

  • by CimmerianX ( 2478270 ) on Saturday August 19, 2017 @07:05PM (#55049825)

    This is why you shouldn't use services like this. Vote with your usage and drop plex, there are plenty of alternatives.

  • You want my data, pay me. Never heard of Plex, never used it, prolly never will. But you want my data, send me money. If it ain't enough then fuck you.
  • by Khyber ( 864651 ) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Saturday August 19, 2017 @07:53PM (#55050015) Homepage Journal

    Guess who else didn't let people opt out of information collection? Hitler.

    Fuck these Nazi-esque fucks.

  • by LeftCoastThinker ( 4697521 ) on Saturday August 19, 2017 @08:45PM (#55050151)

    " we do not sell or share your personally identifiable statistics"

    So OK, unless the company signs a binding agreement with it's customers, in 6 months when the numbers are down they can decide to turn around and sell the data they have collected on you and you can't do a damn thing about it. Or in 2 years when a new CEO comes in and wants to boost profits to get a better bonus so they can buy the 52 foot yacht instead of the 35 footer, they can turn around and sell it. The bottom line is if the information gets collected, sooner or later it will get sold. The only way to really prevent this is for the company to destroy the data after a set time long enough to be used for their internal purposes, but short enough to prevent a money grab down the road.

    • Also, let's keep in mind that they haven't said what counts as PII. If they're going by the usual definition of that, then it's a lie -- an awful lot of "non-PII" is, in fact, personally identifying.

      And it's been demonstrated plenty of times that even data that is innocuous in isolation becomes personally identifying when combined with other data. So, really, the only "non-PII" is aggregate statistical information that you can't drill down to single instances of.

  • I'd get a new cell phone and OPT-OUT of flurry.com (Google) now Yahoo, the major one to block. That cell phone ID number being godfathered.

    Ads were stopped, now the TOS reads ads won't stop just target ads will not be presented.
    https://support.google.com/ads... [google.com] adchoices mentioned will block ads if they are members but these are all cookies, blocking any cleaning out of ones browser.

    Not being rooted as most aren't, a hosts file isn't possible; outside a router.

  • Pray I don't alter it any further...

  • One wonders how this works for their European customers.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wik... [wikipedia.org]

  • Thanks for the service, you were great while you were great.

    NEXT!

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