The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

Netflix monitors your viewing behavior closely and carefully tailors the experience in response. And in my case, the site has determined that I am a sex predator:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

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This is just one example; I've got more below. On the dashboard of my wife's Netflix account, the sales pitch for this show called The Forest is: "Click here, you normal, well-balanced person, and see what adventures this brave canine will get up to! Look at the beautiful doggo! Who's a good boy? It might also be a wolf."

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But on mine? "Well, what do we have here, Mr. Wong? Why, it's a completely nude woman alone in the woods! I bet something terrible is going to happen to that completely nude woman, on camera, while you watch. [Will Graham voice from Manhunter] You like to watch them, don't you, you sick son of a bitch?"

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Probably just a random coincidence, right? That's what I was hoping. So, I went through both of our accounts to compare and contrast. The following examples are 100 percent real. (Sit down with your friends or partners and try it!) And one thing I've learned is that Netflix seems more than happy to cater to some ... very specific tastes.

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11
Crazyhead

The thumbnail on my wife's Netflix account:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

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"Look at this sassy pair! You can bet these strong women are about to kick some ass!"

The thumbnail on mine:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

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"SHE'S TERRIFIED AND BLOODY IN THE WOODS! WHO IS SHE LOOKING AT? COULD IT BE A SEX PREDATOR?!?! CLICK TO FIND OUT!"

Well, so what? That's just two examples, surely there aren't any-

10
Glitch

The thumb on my wife's account:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

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"This lovely woman is enjoying a wade in a pond! Does one perhaps sense a mystery in the air?"

Mine:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

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"THIS FRIGHTENED WOMAN ALSO HAS BLOOD ON HER FACE! HOLY SHIT, WHAT HAPPENED TO HER? Wait, is that blood, or did we just manipulate the image to suggest it? Who cares? Are you hard yet, sicko?"

9
Quantico

My wife's account:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

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"She's a young, strong woman in the FBI. Look out, evildoers!"

Mine:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

"Whoa, look at the tits on this helpless lady getting manhandled by some kind of masked fiend! You know what's about to what's about to happen here, and we know you want to wallow in it. Hey, is that blood on her face? We know that's your thing, you piece of shit."

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8
The Returned

My wife's account:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

"A lonely housewife, a shirtless, handsome young man ... Could he be what's missing in her life? Could it be that the fires of her passion have ... returned?"

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Mine:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

"She's terrified and clutching a little girl! Is the little girl dead? No time to mourn, Mom, because something is coming! Some sinewy beast full of an unnatural hunger has ... returned."

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Can I step in here and say that half of our Netflix consumption is done together, using one of our accounts or other? And that the most recent show I watched was Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? I do not seek out female torture porn on Netflix.

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7
Requiem

My wife's account:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

"Spooky haunted house!"

Mine:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

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"Check out this grainy photo of a woman with her freaking eyes scratched out! WITH BLOOD! I bet you've got plenty of pictures like this on your bedroom wall, don't you? You scratch out their eyes so they can't witness your deeds, don't you, Wong?"

6
Orange Is The New Black

My wife's account:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

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"This flawed but strong young woman faces her uncertain future."

Mine:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

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"Look at my big ol' boobies!"

OK, this one makes a little more sense. But still, can I note that as far as I can remember, Netflix has never asked my gender or sexual orientation? And it's not like Netflix is just chock full o' porn for me to browse.

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5
The Letdown

My wife's account:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

"This new mother is bundled up for a chilly day!"

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Mine:

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"This new mother has decided it's a little warm in here! Better strip down to this moist, clingy tanktop."

See, that just reeks of desperation to me. In fact, it's actually these next few that weirded me out the most. The others ... well, I'm a professional horror guy and obviously I watch the stuff, so maybe they just try to make everything look as much like a slasher movie as possible?

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But now check how their machine learning algorithm bends over backward to feed me the face of an upset woman at every opportunity, regardless of the premise of the show.

4
Marcella

My wife's account:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

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"Marcella is presumably one of these two lab-suited professionals, a strong woman out to solve some problem or other! Don't get any dangerous substances on you, strong woman! Or maybe Marcella is the name of the town."

Mine:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

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"Marcella is distressed ... but about what?"

3
The Shannara Chronicles

My wife's account:

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"Hints of a castle, waterfalls, some fire. Why, it's an epic fantasy show to fill the Game Of Thrones void in your life!"

Mine:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

"Shannara is distressed ... but about what?"

2
Birthmarked

My wife's account:

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"A group of siblings have a good-hearted romp!"

Mine:

The Alarming Way Netflix Customizes Itself To Our Tastes

"Birthmarked is distressed ... but about what? Other than this squirrel situation."

1
... And Everything Else In The World

Netflix has over 27,000 categories for its movies and shows (including ultra-specific niches like "French Zombie Movies" and "East Asian Forbidden-Love Action & Adventure"), but you probably knew that just from using the service. What you may not realize is that you, as a user, have also been placed into a category. Netflix has "a couple thousand" categories of users, called "taste communities." I, for instance, am apparently in a "taste community" consisting of a single member called "Probably The Memphis Strangler."

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No one likes to think they're a type, but we're all neatly categorized in somebody's database. Did you know marketers have you placed into one of 62 socioeconomic categories, called the Claritas Prizm? Examples:

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The Young Digerati: "... tech-savvy singles and couples living in fashionable neighborhoods on the urban fringe. Affluent, highly educated and ethnically mixed ... "

Young & Rustic: " ... lower income, high school-educated and living in tiny apartments in the nation's exurban towns ... lifestyles centered on sports, cars and dating."

Mobility Blues: " ... Racially mixed and under 25 years old ... Surveys show they excel in going to movies, playing basketball and shooting pool."

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There's also one called "Shotguns & Pickups." You can guess who they are. But the Claritas Prizm was a Stone Age idea, developed in the '90s. Netflix can divine more about your worldview just by the shows you watch, and I can't even fathom what Google knows about me at this point. ("He's watched the same YouTube video every month for eight straight years ...")

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I am 99 percent sure that for 99 percent of you, there is at least one company out there that knows you better than you know yourself, and I mean that literally. Their algorithm knows what products you binge when you're depressed, and about how far away you are from your next downturn, even if you don't. They know the simple patterns and cycles of behavior that are invisible to you ... and someday you'll know what life changes are coming based on which coupons suddenly start showing up.

I can even see a day when, if someone is destined to have a psychological break and go on some kind of gruesome crime spree, a promotional algorithm would know before anyone else. And rather than alert the police, it would just mindlessly feed those appetites, day by day, without judgment. Can you even imagine?

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Jason "David Wong" Pargin is the Executive Editor at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook or YouTube or Instagram.

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For more, check out Amazon Thinks I'm Some Sort Of Serial Killer In Training and 4 Ways To Tell If You're Creepy (Using The Internet).

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