Plex, a media streaming platform, recently launched a new social feature called “Discover Together” aimed at increasing engagement between connected friends. However, many Plex users are alarmed as the feature unintentionally discloses private watch history to unwanted parties.
The Discover Together feature generates a weekly email detailing what users and their friends have been watching on their personal Plex servers. However, the feature was released as opt-out, so users didn’t consent beforehand to their viewing habits being shared. This resulted in people finding out that friends and family members had access to potentially embarrassing information.
According to upset Plex community members, the feature reveals details of content that friends never intended others to know about. Some claim the emails showed people had watched softcore pornographic films assuming their viewing history was private within Plex. There is concern this could be especially problematic for LGBTQ+ teenagers still exploring their identity. If intolerant individuals received their viewing history, it could put the teens at risk.
Many feel betrayed that Plex collects and shares data about their personal libraries without asking first. Some suggest that outside entities like government agencies would be very interested in accessing everyone’s viewing history data. Though Plex team members explained that certain explicit content lacking IMDb listings wouldn’t have details shared, numerous adult films still have pages on that platform.
The ability for Plex to monitor sync events to determine viewing activity also worries privacy advocates. Some feel this backchannel tracking goes against the very idea of self-hosted media solutions that first drew them to the platform. There is frustration that a company advertising itself as a private alternative to services like Netflix still surveils usage to this extent.
In response to waves of criticism about Discover Together on Reddit threads and Plex’s own community forums, employees clarified the feature remains fully optional. They have explained how users can opt-out to prevent sharing of weekly watch recaps. However, the team has not acknowledged the valid ethical dilemmas raised around Plex’s data collection practices that make such features even possible without forewarning. Critics argue the potential harm caused by revealing sensitive information outweighs perceived benefits to engagement on the platform.
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