Last week, a security researcher tweeted that the Netflix app on his Android phone requested access to the device’s physical activity sensors. Later, when I checked it on my Pixel 3 XL, even I had the permission turned on without any prior prompt. It’s rather odd that a streaming video service would want to know whether you’re walking or running.
— Beto on Security(back to basics now) (@BetoOnSecurity) July 27, 2019
When I contacted Netflix, it said it’s a part of a test which improves video playback quality based on a user’s activity:
We are continually testing ways to give our members a better experience. 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.
It seems like the company is taking advantage of new activity recognition permission on Android Q which lets the developer understand whether you’re in motion while using their apps. In this case, it’s possible that Netflix may use the data to figure out how to buffer video so your stream doesn’t skip while you’re on the move – but we can’t exactly be sure.
The company said it has no plan to roll this feature out at this time, but we’ll keep an ear to the ground for updates.