Is “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” a fun way to kill a few hours? Or the start of a new kind of entertainment that watches you as you watch it? That’s one of the points we discuss on the latest “Low Key” podcast, which you can listen to on Apple or right here:
On every episode of “Low Key” we try to dissect overlooked aspects of pop culture. For example: What is Netflix doing with the user data it gathers from “Bandersnatch”? The “choose your own adventure”-style narrative invites you to make countless decisions that clever data miners could exploit to learn about you and your preferences.
Netflix hasn’t responded to our inquiries about what, if anything, the company is doing with our data. “Black Mirror” executive producers Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones have a few ideas, but they aren’t sure.
The decisions in “Bandersnatch” (Frosties or Sugar Puffs?) are innocuous. But the technology opens the door to future shows gathering granular insights into our viewing and consumer habits. It isn’t just a question of what cereal we like, but also what kind of car we want to see our heroine drive, or how long we’re willing to listen to people talk. As we note on the podcast, seemingly innocuous data may have helped swing the 2016 election.
Also: Netflix’s other interactive shows are all aimed at kids. So even if you’re comfortable with your decisions being tracked, are you okay with someone gathering data on your children?
In this episode of “Low Key,” co-hosts Aaron Lanton, Keith Dennie and I have a half-serious talk about ways data-mining could be disguised as artificial intelligence — or “choose your own adventure”-style entertainment or lifestyle products.
Imagine if Joi — the hologram girlfriend in “Blade Runner 2049” played by Ana de Armas — were to start collecting personal data on K (Ryan Gosling). Does it seem impossible to imagine corporations providing us with free holograms or robots to bring joy to our homes, while taking note of what we buy and how we could be made more susceptible to marketing?
Someday, everyone’s weirdest secrets might be carefully tracked.
If all this sounds paranoid, maybe we’re watching too much “Black Mirror.” Or maybe you should read this article about how a total stranger can track your movements for about $300.