Netflix Is Testing 'Physical Activity' Tracking for Some Reason

By Victoria Song on at

Netflix collects a lot of data about you. But now, some Android users are finding that it’s also tracking ‘physical activity’ data via their phones.

Last Friday, a security researcher on Twitter noticed that the Netflix Android app had added a menu asking for permission for physical activity access. That was corroborated by the Next Web, which first reported on the issue. In a statement, Netflix told the Next Web it was “part of a test to see how [it] can improve video playback quality when a member is on the go.” It went on to state that it was only testing the feature on some accounts, and that there were no current plans to roll it out on a wider basis. We tried checking our own phones at Gizmodo, but alas, none of us were among the chosen ones.

In all likelihood, Netflix is making use of an update to Android Q that lets apps developers access sensor data to detect step counts or “classify the user’s physical activity, such as walking, biking, or moving in a vehicle,” as the developer page describes it. While someone walking down the street and simultaneously watching Netflix sounds ridiculous—don’t do it!—it does make sense if Netflix is exploring how to improve playback for people commuting on trains or in cars.

Or, hear me out, it could be a throwback to Netflix’s little known fitness tracker. A few years ago, Netflix introduced its Make It series that features DIY projects like a pair of socks that could tell when you fell asleep while binge-watching to automatically pause the show you’re watching. Another Make It project was a “personal trainer” tracker device that would pause your show every time you stopped moving. Given that plenty of folks watch Netflix at the gym or while on treadmills, it’s not a stretch to think that maybe Netflix is exploring a way to do that with your phone. Gizmodo reached out to Netflix to see if that was a possibility, but we did not receive an immediate response.

That said, for the love of everything good, please let me keep my sacred couch potato time.

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