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Netflix Ditches Beat-Our-Recommendation-System Contest Due to Privacy Questions

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Brokeback Mountain

Credit: Universal

Netflix's grassroots competition to best its recommendation algorithm was a big popularity booster for the company—but thanks to concerns over privacy (backed up by one troubling example), the company has decided to kill the contest.

Netflix's recommendation engine can be a little wonky. So it started a contest in which any development team that could create a movie recommendation algorithm more accurate than Netflix's would win a million dollars. It's a win-win-win: the company gets press, grassroots developers get a chance to win a million dollars, and we all get a better recommendation system.

Unfortunately, Netflix also had to release certain data to these teams for testing, as simply part of the process—and one woman sued for a violation of privacy. The Federal Trade Commission investigated the situation, and Netflix settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum. Unfortunately, the settlement included a section banning Netflix from releasing any more of this data—which means the end of the competition.

From Fast Company
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