Netflix’s new physical activity tracking test sounds very weird

Netflix’s latest test is a bit of a head-scratcher. The Netflix app for Android has started asking users for access to ‘Physical Activity’ data, and we’re (having fun) trying to work out why.

Netflix is always experimenting with potential new features, but this sounds like it could be a particularly weird one.

The Netflix app isn’t requesting access to physical activity data from everyone, but one person who did receive the prompt was Twitter user @BetoOnSecurity (via The Next Web):

The ‘Physical activity recognition’ permission is a brand new addition to Android. In fact, it’s currently still in beta, having been introduced with the still-in-development Android Q.

Here’s how Google describes it:

“Android Q introduces a new ACTIVITY_RECOGNITION runtime permission for apps that need to detect the user’s step count or classify the user’s physical activity, such as walking, biking, or moving in a vehicle. This is designed to give users visibility of how device sensor data is used in Settings.

“If your app relies on data from other built-in sensors on the device, such as the accelerometer and gyroscope, you don’t need to declare this new permission in your app.”

It isn’t clear what Netflix plans to do with this data, but a couple of unlikely scenarios spring to mind.

One is that streaming company could be toying with the idea of making it easier for users to binge-watch Netflix TV shows and films while they’re on the go. Because why wouldn’t you want to tune into Stranger Things 3 or The Great Hack while… cycling to work? Or running around your local park.

Or might Netflix be toying with the idea of encouraging bingers to get off the couch between shows?

Hmmm.

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Fun as it is to speculate, it seems that this particular test might not lead to anything concrete.

“This was part of a test to see how we can improve video playback quality when a member is on the go. Only some accounts are in the test, and we don’t currently have plans to roll it out,” a Netflix spokesperson told The Next Web. Nice and vague.

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