The Dark Side of Netflix

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Watching the Watchers: Silverlight 4 Can Access Your Web Cam and Microphone

Silverlight has attracted little attention on Netflix Underground. Basically, some Netflix subscribers hate Silverlight, have loads of problems with it, wish they had never installed it, and are now stuck with it. There just was not much else to mention.

Now, however, a Netflix Undergrounder is claiming that Silverlight accessed his/her personal webcam and microphone without his/her knowledge. The subscriber claims Silverlight had a live image from his/her webcam, and he/she could view it simply by right-clicking and then selecting on a WebCam/Mic tab.

It is true Silverlight 4 has webcam and microphone support. That may be a nice feature, but it would be creepy to find out that Silverlight actively captures images and sounds from personal web cams and microphones by default.

Hopefully, some solid precautions have been taken to keep the private audio/visuals inaccessible to others, but a resourceful hacker might love to peek in on a person's private web cam just to snoop around and see who watches Netflix movies in their underwear. Nothing online is 100% hacker-proof, so this issue could raise some privacy concerns.

Certainly, this sort of functionality is addressed somewhere in Silverlight's terms of use or user agreement; however, given the massive potential for privacy violations, users should have to manually activate their web cams and microphones. Some people (the smart ones) do not want live audio/visual feeds being streamed from their homes over the Web.

Before anyone freaks out, please keep in mind this is just an accusation from one Netflix subscriber/Silverlight user, and this may just stem from a simple misunderstanding, oversight, or mistake; however, if it turns out to be true that Silverlight is automatically capturing webcam video and microphone audio, there is a concern that a serious breach of privacy has been made.

It must be noted that instructions at SilverlightShow indicate Silverlight 4 does have the capability to automatically detect webcams and microphones, but the same instructions also indicate users must grant Silverlight permission to access theses devices. As long as users are actually aware Silverlight is accessing their web cams and microphones and have a fair chance to allow or disallow access, everything is fine, and there is no cause for alarm.

Please check to see if Silverlight is accessing your webcam and microphone. If Silverlight is accessing your webcam and microphone without your consent, deactivate the access immediately and report the problem to Netflix and Microsoft. Please come back and share your findings here. Hopefully, this open web cam occurrence is just an isolated incident.


Netflix Bets on Gullible Canadians and Ignorant Americans, Eh?

Netflix has apparently grown bored with tricking Americans. Now, the Red Menace is spreading to Canada. Netflix is off to a wonderful start up there too.

According to The Canadian Press, to drum up Canadian interest in Netflix, Netflix hired actors to pose as Netflix fans at a publicity event in Toronto on September 23, 2010. Some of the actors gave interviews to reporters. They did so, because Netflix instructed them to show enthusiasm, "particularly if asked by media to do any interviews."

Certainly, the press is upset about the trick. Netflix is apologizing for the hoax, stating that it was improper. According to Michael Liedtke of the Associated Press, Netflix spokesman, Steve Swasey, even tried to float the excuse that this was all an accident, arising from a fake documentary they needed to make to qualify for permitting. Now, that is a weak excuse. Netflix was probably just trying to fool the Canadian public, and things just backfired on them when the actors broke cover and exposed the scam.

What is wrong with the corporate culture at this shady company? Is Netflix honest in anything they do? Why does this company have to trick people to generate interest? If Netflix will do stuff like this to attract customers, what are they willing to do to existing customers?

Here is some honesty for you. Canadians are getting streaming Netflix service at a cheaper price than Americans. When Etan Vlessing from The Hollywood Reporter asked Reed Hastings, "Are you concerned that American Netflix subscribers will look north and ask for the same discount Canadians get at $7.99?"

The Netflix CEO and founder, Reed Hastings, responded, "How much has it been your experience that Americans follow what happens in the world? It's something we'll monitor, but Americans are somewhat self-absorbed."

So, Netflix does not want to give you American subscribers the same discount as they are giving to the same Canadians they just tried to fool with hired, fake Netflix fans. Reed Hastings thinks his company will get away with this pricing disparity because, apparently, Americans are too self-absorbed to know what is going on in other countries.

Hastings may very well be right about the ignorance of American Netflix subscribers, but do you want to do business with a company run by a man who has so little respect for you that he will publicly suggest you will pay higher prices because you do not know any better?