New Hulu Terms Make It Difficult to Opt Out of Data Collection

As part of their rollout of the highly-anticipated new live TV service, Hulu has updated and expanded their Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. While most of it isn’t a big surprise in terms of collecting and sharing your information, Hulu has seemingly made it more difficult to opt out of data and information collection through its streaming services. The privacy policy makes it clear that “if you do not consent to the collection and use of information from or about you in accordance with this Privacy Policy, then you may not use the Hulu Services.”

According to Hulu’s new Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, Hulu will “collect information from or about you through the Hulu Services in order to tailor advertisements, measure advertising effectiveness, and enable other enhancements” including other websites you visit, any ads you view, and ambiguous “other activities online.” This information collection happens whenever an ad appears, whether or not you click on it, and can be sold to third parties by Hulu in the event of any mergers, bankruptcy, etc. Hulu can share or sell this information to advertisers even if your account is deleted.

The new Privacy Policy states that Hulu “may disclose information from or about you without providing you a choice.” While Hulu offers methods to opt out of this information sharing, options are slightly underwhelming. According to Hulu’s new privacy policy, there is no way to directly opt out of data collection and tracking through Hulu’s site. Instead, users are directed to two third-party “Do Not Track”/opt-out sites here and here which might or not actually work while using Hulu:

There is currently no consensus among industry participants as to what “Do Not Track” means and how to respond to “Do Not Track” browser signals. As such, we do not respond to such signals. Instead, to opt-out of website-based third-party interest-based or online behavioral advertising, please exercise one of the choices listed above.

Your results may vary, but when I tried one of the opt-out sites, zero out of 118 opt-out attempts were successful. Some level of data collection while using Hulu is inevitable.

Furthermore, with the rollout of the live TV service, Hulu has had to make several changes to its location-based data collection. According to the new Privacy Policy, you may be required to share your device’s location data. The only way to opt-out of this is to disable location services through your device’s local settings, but this can affect the availability of location-based programming. Hulu’s new live TV service only offers content which is available in users’ specific locations, meaning some sports events could be blacked out:

Certain live Content, including sporting events, may be unavailable due to your location, blackouts, or device-specific restrictions set by sports leagues and other parties that control Content rights. […] For this reason, among others, you will need to share your mobile device’s precise location data with us in order for us to provide you with the Services on your mobile device.

Despite the alarms these new terms might raise, they’re unlikely to dissuade users from subscribing to Hulu or the new live TV service. Hulu has been adding more and more original content and signing licensing deals left and right, and by some reports, Hulu appears to be gaining on leading streaming service Netflix. Data collection and sharing has become an inevitable fact of the digital age whether consumers like it or not. If these terms have you too worried, you can always cancel Hulu. But then how are you gonna catch the rest of The Handmaid’s Tale? I, for one, welcome our new big data overlords – as long as they keep rolling out top-notch content.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley

Brett lives at the foot of the ancient Appalachian mountains in Asheville, North Carolina and writes about technology, science, and culture.
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Brett Tingley