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Netflix Prize Canceled Due to Privacy Concerns

netflix.pngIn September 2009, Netflix concluded its first Netflix Prize contest, awarding $1 million to a team that was able to improve their recommendation system by 10.06 percent. It also launched a second contest, challenging participants to generate accurate recommendations for Netflix members who seldom rate films by taking into account the members’ ages, genders, ZIP codes, genre ratings and previously viewed films. This second contest has now been canceled amidst an inquiry from the Federal Trade Commission and a lawsuit filed by KamberLaw LLC.

During the course of the first contest, Arvind Narayanan and Vitaly Shmatikov wrote a report about how the data Netflix provided could be de-anonymized. While that contest was allowed to continue unimpeded, Netflix did not fare so well the second time. The company provided participants in the second Netflix Prize with 100 million anonymized data points which it claimed could not be associated with a specific Netflix member. This claim has been contested by the FTC, which inquired about the contest’s affect on Netflix members’ privacy. The contest also resulted in a lawsuit filed by KamberLaw LLC.

In a statement made on Monday, Neil Hunt, the Chief Product Officer for Netflix, announced that the company had settled the lawsuit and made an agreement with the FTC which placed undisclosed restrictions on how Netflix could use data in the future. Also announced was the cancelation of the Prize contest. Hunt did, however, explain that Netflix is still committed to improving its recommendation system and that it will continue to work with the research community.

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