Privacy Policy & User Agreement

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Popular media player software maker Plex has had a rough weekend. The company alerted users via email on Friday about an updated privacy policy due to go into effect in September. The new policy would remove users’ ability to opt out of data collection, said Plex. This move quickly resulted in much user backlash, with many subscribers concerned that their data would be shared or sold to third parties, or that Plex would now be able to identify the media files housed in their library.

That latter item is of particular concern to many users who have amassed media collections through illegal means, like torrenting or ripping copy-protected DVDs. They’re worried that allowing Plex to collect data about their media and its consumption would allow the company to deduce what sort of files they have.

Plex, in a post published to its website, admitted that its new policy didn’t go far enough to clarify that it didn’t have interest in knowing what’s in users’ libraries or collecting data to that effect. It said it would make changes to the new policy ASAP to assuage users’ fears in this area.

The company explained that it would be difficult to figure out the identify of a file based on certain media information, like duration, but also acknowledged it’s more than a “theoretical possibility” that this could be done. In other words, the indication here is that this is an almost paranoid concern on users’ parts.

“We have ZERO interest in knowing or being able to know what is in any of your libraries,” wrote Plex CEO Keith Valory, ahead of detailing how the new policy would further protect users’ against having files identified.

To address this problem, Plex is updating the policy with three main changes, he said.

To start, Plex will now “generalize” playback statistics so it won’t be able to create any sort of fingerprint to identify a file in a user’s library. This will allow the company to still gain insights it needs to improve its service — like server performance when combined with specific hardware, codecs, bit rate and resolution; if a given feature is being used; if users are having trouble finding a certain button; and other items.

Another of the key concerns with the new policy is that Plex was removing the ability to opt out of data collection, which confused users who believed this change was about allowing Plex to amass data that could later be sold to third parties or used against them in other ways.

However, Plex said that its decision to remove opt out during setup was because it gave users a “false sense of privacy” because there were so many exceptions to the opt out clause as is. The company said a lot of data is transmitted already in order for its service to function.

For example: Plex servers connect to the cloud to receive updates; clients talk to the cloud to connect to remote servers; third-party services like Alexa and Sonos such that metadata must be available to Plex’s cloud services; Plex has to know if you’re a subscriber to premium features; it has to communicate various playback requests or commands through its cloud infrastructure at times; its relay service has to hand off data between your server and a remote device; and it has to provide reporting to licensors about trailers, extra, photo tagging, lyrics, licensed codecs and more (which is anonymized data).

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Source : https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/21/plex-changes-its-new-privacy-policy-after-backlash-clarified-its-not-trying-to-see-whats-in-your-library/

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