Plex updates its privacy policy -- and now you can't opt out of data collection [UPDATED]

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Plex -- the much-loved media server software -- has updated its privacy policy, and people are not happy with the changes. Included among the changes is a notification that future features may collect and share details about what you're streaming.

Usage statistics are collected by many companies -- including Plex -- to improve products; moving forward users will not be able to opt out of this data collection. Needless to say, Plex users are more than a little upset.

Update: Plex has now backtracked on this decision

See also:

A major sticking point is the inability to opt out of statistics collection: something user enMTW dismisses as "bullshit" over on the Plex forums. This user has a blunt message for Plex: "You are not entitled to that information. You may want it, but you do not get to make the decision for me. Stop making the world a worse place."

He goes on to say:

The privacy of your users comes before your desire for metrics. It doesn't matter if you don't think the information is sensitive, the user is the one to decide. It's super-duper bullshit that the change is forced upon lifetime Plex Pass customers. Stop being shitheads. Listen to your users. Changes like this should be discussed prior to implementation.

enMTV is certainly not alone in being unhappy with Plex. Some users say they can no longer recommend the software, others that they will not be upgrading with the latest updates, and others that they will implement firewall rules to protect their privacy.

In a brief summary of the changes, Plex highlights the follows tweaks to its privacy policy:

  • Upcoming features and services involving third-party and ad-supported content will require Plex to collect and, in some cases, share information about the third-party content you are streaming. For clarity, third-party content is content that we deliver or stream to you that is not contained in your personal media library.
  • In order to understand the usage across the Plex ecosystem and how we need to improve, Plex will continue to collect usage statistics, such as device type, duration, bit rate, media format, resolution, and media type (music, photos, videos, etc.). We will no longer allow the option to opt out of this statistics collection, but we do not sell or share your personally identifiable statistics. Again, we will not collect any information that identifies libraries, files, file names, and/or the specific content stored on your privately hosted Plex Media Servers. The only exception to this is when, and only to the extent, you use Plex with third-party services such as Sonos, Alexa, webhooks, and Last.fm.

Any changes to privacy policies -- particularly those which introduce additional data collection -- are always eyed with suspicion, and Plex is fully aware of this. In an email sent out to users advising of the upcoming changes, the company tries to fend off a predicted backlash by saying:

Before you grab your pitchfork and head to Reddit, we do NOT know what files you have stored or what you watch on your privately hosted Plex Media Servers. The only exception to this is when, and only to the extent, you use Plex with third-party services such as Sonos, Alexa, webhooks, and Last.fm. Do not panic.

But over on the Plex subreddit, there are already various threads filled with complaints, as well as requests for help tracking down media server software that respects privacy. One Reddit user points out:

"We have and will always respect and take your privacy seriously."

and

"We will no longer allow the option to opt out of this statistics collection."

contradict each other.

Time for me to take a serious look at alternatives...

You can read through the full updated privacy policy over on the Plex website.

The new policy comes into effect September 20, 2017 -- will it affect your desire to continue using Plex?

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