Netflix Won’t Let Customers Clear Their Viewing History. Why Is That?

by on January 2, 2012

in consumer, consumer reviews

NetflixNetflix users have been asking since at least 2007, for the ability to clear or hide their “recent viewed” queue.  And yet there are still no options for this?  Why’s that?  You would think with the clamor that Netflix would want to appease those for this long-running inquiry.

I’ve seen suggestions, but not logical ones.

I’ve been watching my brother-in-law tinker around with his Netflix account and the principle is pretty neat.  But the more I see him tinker, the more I’m thinking that Netflix is not better than sliced bread.  Most movies are not the newest and there’s an eclectic and cumbersome way to navigate their entertainment choices.

But what I’ve noticed is that as you create a viewing history, THERE IS NO WAY TO FILTER, HIDE or DELETE it.

Why filter, or delete the viewing history?  The most common reason I’m seeing out on the web is if someone watches something of a questionable moral nature, they don’t want their friends, family, or more importantly, their kids to see this viewing activity.  I get that.

The reason I’m focused on this is because I noticed that with my brother-in-law’s situation, his kids use Netflix to watch their movies, but they have access and are exposed to the entire viewing history of the account.

That doesn’t seem smart from Netflix’s side of things.  They don’t seem to care that their customers are asking for a filter.

This request for an option to filter or delete viewing history has been floating around for a long time but what I found for a reply from a Netflix representative seemed glib.

The cavalier appearing reply addressed their “deep honesty” policy.  In other words, everyone should be like them.

“…this deep honesty policy: we generally say whatever we’re thinking to whoever needs to hear it.”

I interpret that to saying it doesn’t matter what their customers are saying.  Then it looks like they questioned people’s sense of morals with this continuation of their post:

“if you’re REALLY friends, then you should be okay showing them what you’re really watching.”

Netflix PCSeriously?  That seems unrealistic and ignores the idea that sometimes parents want to be able to freely watch things and not worry about their kids seeing the titles.

Later, Netflix states that they don’t want to clutter up the screen with another option button.

“The Queue is out. It’s not worth the complexity of another column for the one title you want to hide once every few months.”

This feels cavalier and if I were read between the lines, customers requests aren’t worth it.

Netflix’s only other option to removing viewed content, doesn’t really address viewed content, but rather,

  • Going through the process of creating a separate, sub-account to watch things on.

OR

  • Cancel and recreate your account.

One one bulletin board I saw one customer suggest partially watching 4 different movies or shows to push the old content out of the way from the primary screen.

Another BB post said the following:

“Quote – “According to Netflix it’s because the movie licensing companies won’t let them disable recent history because they want to keep track of what we’re watching so they can target marketing to the viewers.”

If that reply is accurate, that seems fanciful and does not address the TV shows in the queue.

There seems to be something going on in the background of Netflix to actively ignore folks asking for this feature, but who knows what that is.

Consumer Bits on Brusimm 200w logo, [Consumer News, advice and reviews]As a potential customer who had been considering this service, I’m not impressed.

Unless I missed some new development, it seems that Netflix will not allow users to modify, delete, or clear recently viewed content list.  In this day and age, there’s no excuse to not give consumers what they want.

If this is important to you, remember, your wallet is the voting tool here.  And as far as I can guess, Netflix is not concerned, since they are not losing enough business over this issue to make this a priority.

But that’s just my take.  I could be wrong.

=

blog.netflix.com [1]

blog.netflix.com [2]

developer.netflix.com

About 

Bruce has been been writing for the web since 1999. He likes to take a more pragmatic approach to most of the news and marketing that gets floated out there while still keeping a light tone about it.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

john frink March 24, 2014 at 8:53 am

My reason for wanting to clear items is that I started watching something that I decided I didn’t like so I didn’t finish watching it. Netflix keep showing it in the “continue watching” section when I open the app. The issue is not privacy. It is about a product that shoves annoying information at the customer.

C45 January 21, 2014 at 6:57 pm

@John L.Very funny to read, but a possible ruined Christmas due to a netflix hiccup would not be good.
@ Stan E and all, you we’re right about the profiles. You can easy go into accounts and create multiple side profiles which will start you afresh for a television series that you may want to watch again and also keep your privacy for other movies. (granted you delete the profile afterwards if it’s life shattering)
I’ve looked all over for fixes so I can watch the Lost series again without it starting from the end or some other point in the episode. This is so far the best way, because netflix has some hidden agenda it seems not to integrate a few frigging more options since 2007.

Stan E. January 17, 2014 at 7:23 am

Prasad is right! I was about to give up on Netflix and delete my account after reading all of the comments, but I decided to try customer service for myself before I made a final decision. I’m not sure if you tried scrolling down to the bottom of the ‘Netflix Help Center’, John L., but Netflix actually has two very good options for quickly contacting them: live chat and a phone number you can call. I tried the live chat and was connected within 30 seconds. I was greeted by a very friendly staff member of Netflix support. My personal reason for wanting to delete my history is actually one that I haven’t seen on any forums so far… I am gay but unfortunately my family is extremely homophobic and would actually disown me if they knew I was gay. Netflix has an amazing LGBT section with lots of very profound and progressive movies, and even simply movies about the hardships/history of the gay community. I am somewhat of a movie buff and am pretty shy so it’s not that I want to watch any of the more explicit b-rate LGBT movies, but many of the movies I do want to see are available only on Netflix, I can’t find them anywhere, not online, not in the library, etc. At first the live chat staff was giving me the usual response, as in, “I’ll make a note that you would like to add this option” so I briefly explained my situation hoping that I could get a different answer. The live chat staff was so understanding and nice, I was really surprised and was fearing a chastising response, but she actually gave me what may be the answer to all of our history deleting problems, whatever our motives may be: You can now create multiple, separate accounts on Netflix. You can create and delete these side accounts whenever you want, as many times as you want. The only account you can’t change is the default/main account. So that means… whenever you want to watch a private movie, simply create a new account, watch it on that account, and delete the account! Amazing! I hope this helps.

John L. January 15, 2014 at 6:34 pm

I just tried to send Netflix an email suggesting that they add this feature (I know, those emails just end up discarded in a pile, I just want to help make that pile become too big to ignore), only to find that they removed the option to send them an email entirely. When you click “contact us” at the bottom of every page, it brings you to their “help center” which is a list of FAQ and a search bar to help navigate. When you type the word “send” into the search bar, it suggests “send Netflix an email” as a frequently searched phrase. “Oh good,” I thought, “they just made it hard to find.” So I search “send Netflix an email” and the only remotely related result describes what happens when you include a hand-written note with a returned dvd in the mail (article claims to only apply to US customers). First of all, that sounds like something a kidnapping victim would do to seek help. I get the impression that that Q isn’t FA. But anyway, what happens when you do that? They email you (from a no-reply address, I’m guessing) and tell you to contact customer support. The only way I can find to do that is to call them at a number which apparently has a waiting period. At that point, I got fed up and closed that browser tab with a particularly heavy click. I imagine most people who end up calling after enduring all of that nonsense are already shouting and cursing by the time a Netflix representative answers their call. Considering all the effort they put into preventing their users from even making suggestions, would it really be more expensive for them to allow us to modify our viewing histories? They could keep the history for themselves and use it to make suggestions and gather statistics. I’m just asking (trying to ask) for the option to prevent it from being displayed on my tv. There’s actually been plenty of things that I wanted to watch but didn’t do so because it was very violent/sexual/nerdy and I didn’t want my friends and family to know that I like that stuff. Go ahead and call it dishonest, I see it as having basic privacy. I also masturbate, but I don’t talk to my parents about it. I don’t want to be looking for a wholesome Christmas movie to play in the background while we open presents and have a family member ask me, “what the hell is Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead, and why does it have such a high rating from you? Just exactly how depraved are you, son?” That could’ve been the year that Netflix ruined Christmas.
By the way- Thank you, Bruce Simmons, for this article. Taught me everything I needed to know.

prasad January 1, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Create an separate user watch your movies, delete and recreate the same. this is effective.

Bruce Simmons December 10, 2013 at 10:33 am

Das, thanks for that insightful input and new perspective on the this Netflix history issue. Who knows. Maybe some day, they’ll here their customers perspectives. -Bruce

Das December 9, 2013 at 6:36 am

After skimming through most of these comments I pose another thought. (I think that I saw most of them but forgive me if I missed the one post that touched on this as well) My personal reason for wanting to clear or otherwise modify my viewing history is to restart a show or movie from the start without the tedious act of clicking each episode and then clicking “play from beginning”. Especially on my blu-ray player from which I can normally just hit the play button on the series from the instant play list. Even from customers who don’t have to (or care to) worry about what other people see on their account the lack of this feature is very annoying. I also agree with the suggestion features (my nieces watched every episode of Scooby-do well over 2 years ago on my account and I still get it suggested to me when new ones show up). And sadly that same suggestion feature is what keeps me from doing either of the workarounds I’ve seen. Deactivating and restarting my account clears MY ratings and viewings and pushing recent list with random stuff screws with it even more.

Donae November 29, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Thanks Jimbobb for the Amazon Prime info! I’ve been reluctant to sign back up with Netflix, because of their lack of response to the customers request. I hope they lose more customers to Amazon Prime or get with it and listen to the people!

Jim November 1, 2013 at 10:49 pm

cancelled today……goodbye Netflix!
(I work in high end public relations and my distaste for
this miserable company will be voiced manyfold!)

Moving on October 16, 2013 at 6:56 am

I had a stay at home boyfriend about a year back (broken up now obviously) and long story short he watched a lot of despicable shit. He was really into horror movies that involved rape and torture, etc and watched a lot of those while I was gone at work. As a rape survivor myself, I really couldn’t handle the constant triggers that I was faced with in my que, so I cancelled my account. If Netflix wanted my money, they would allow me the option of deleting that crap out of my life. The Netflix account had to go and it wasn’t worth starting a new account if that is how they feel about their customers.

Plus, privacy nowadays is hard to come by and I don’t feel the need to support companies that don’t even pretend to care.

Bob September 3, 2013 at 12:08 am

To be frank, if I want to watch something R-Rated and don’t want my other family members to know about it, Netflix should provide me with that option. On top of that, I have Canadian Netflix which is sorta like the leftovers of Netflix USA, those damned licensing fees…

Bruce Simmons August 12, 2013 at 7:20 pm

That’s a great perspective Dave. Most have been so caught up in the basic premise of why not to see a history, your point of view was slipping on by. Thanks for chiming in.

Dave August 12, 2013 at 10:34 am

Another reason the netflix viewing history is annoying is that my kids watch WAY more TV than I do and so I get tons of recommendations to watch kids crap. My screen is full of Ben10, Phineas and Ferb, Scooby Doo, etc. Don’t assume the only reason to want to erase that history is because of Dad watching “questionable” movies.

Acki August 2, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I just closed my netflix account. Good riddance.
I think people should stop ranting and rather “do” something. We have turned into a popcorn generation. We just want to sit and rant about someone who doesn’t give us what we want, and yet we keep putting dollars in their pocket.
Amazon is an example of company that listens to its customers. I vote with my money, and it goes to Amazon. So I wont have access to some crappy old movies, big deal. At least I chose to not cry about it.

Joey Boom August 1, 2013 at 6:40 am

Gotta love the holier than thou response from Netflix you quoted.

“if you’re REALLY friends, then you should be okay showing them what you’re really watching.”

I’ll just come out right here and admit it: I WATCH PORN.
And I’m not alone in watching it.
Millions of people watch porn every day.
You probably watch porn. Your Mom probably does. Your kids probably will when they grow up.
And the odds are that the very person who made this statement watches porn and doesn’t want anyone to see his/her porn history.

Porn is private. I don’t want to share my porn history with my wife, my kids or my family.
It’s my business.
And if a company doesn’t let me keep my business private, then I’m not using their business.

For anyone who doesn’t think Netflix serves up porn, go rent Nine Songs.

william w. ward July 24, 2013 at 2:39 pm

i have watched several movies and as i pick another one i have to navigate thru all the ones i have seen. how do i delete the ones just get them out of the way?

Margo July 11, 2013 at 11:06 am

Kyle, thank you so much for giving us this heads up, I’m pretty sure a lot of us really appreciate it!

Kyle June 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Hello there,
fellow Netflix concerned customers,

I have recently spoke with Netflix support and believe it or not there in the works of adding to be able to delete or hide you’re viewing history.

I’m really looking forward to this being added
and I hope you all are to.

Kind Regards,
Kyle

hackerz June 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm

its weird i watched 3 episodes of family guy and it never showed on the history

Jimbobb April 29, 2013 at 7:00 am

Amazon Prime lets you delete anything you see, edit your history to your hearts content. IF people are serious that they don’t like Netflix’s unresponsiveness (I want to delete movies because I sometimes watch 10-15 minutes of crappy b-movies and don’t want them cluttering my history) than quit Netflix and tell them you are going to Amazon Prime because they are more responsive to their customers. Companies care about the money – hit them where it hurts. That’s what I did.

Dave April 25, 2013 at 3:29 pm

I get the thought behind Netflix wanting people to buy two accounts but then what would stop them from offering a “premium” account that costs twice as much but gives you expanded capabilities such as “Watch History Deletion”, “Multiple Instant Watch Queues”, “Blu-ray”, etc. My biggest issue is that my kids use the Recently Watched list all the time, on one hand I would hate for my kids to stumble into something they shouldn’t be watching but also I actually worry about the movies they do watch getting moved out of the Recently Watched list. I just started 2 movies that I didn’t like, I quit watching both but now they are at the top of the Recently Watched list and it just bumped 2 movies we might have like from the bottom of the list, so it forces me to constantly check the Recently Watched and add items to the Instant Watch Queue. 2 accounts wouldn’t really work for me either because I can’t see that being an easy process to jump back and forth between the two accounts on my Apple TVs.

Kat Snyder April 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm

The motive for Netflix is logical and quite simple from a business aspect. It is the same reason that they eventually did away with an account being able to have multiple profiles. The fact is, they believe, correctly so, that most of their customers who really take issue with this will just purchase an additional subscription for their children or spouse or whoever it is that they want this information to be hidden from. They are purposely making it difficult to separate children’s shows from adult shows so that they can double their income when these families purchase multiple accounts. Aggravating .. but until another company delivers the Netflix service at a Netflix price .. there is no other alternative.

mamaJ April 4, 2013 at 1:17 pm

The more comments I read, the more sorry I become that I ever signed up for NetFlix simply because it appears the company has ulterior motives-the likes of which no customer has yet to put a finger on. Not being able to delete my viewing history is quite enough to make me cancel my account-permantently. I don’t need nor want, a nanny.

mickey March 12, 2013 at 9:39 am

Netflix used to have this option on their website in the past, but have since done away with it for some reason. I need this feature because ever since they changed their layout and put in autoplay when watching TV shows it makes it very difficult to rewatch the same show later on because it keeps the viewing history. I have to constantly rewind episodes back to the beginning or remember which episode I left off on. It’s such a headache.

cpegeo March 3, 2013 at 2:26 am

As other users have said, the MAIN reason for a person wanting to delete their history is that Netflix makes suggestions to you based on your viewing history. I’m not talking about your recently viewed activity either… Netflix stores information regarding every movie you’ve ever watched on your active account, ever!!!

This seems all fine and dandy except that, if like me, you have a young daughter who watches My Little Pony and similar animated cartoons… ALL your suggestions become EFFING ANIMATED CARTOONS. It will make you crazy. I can’t just browse the recommendations on my tablet/xbox/roku/etc… I can only search for movies on my pc, because every recommendation is a damn animated cartoon. Even if you “one star” all the animated shows, it still recommends more because thats YOUR viewing history…. (you know, because only one person ever selects movies in a home )

Waiting a full year for netflix to delete your viewing history after canceling your account is a bit to long for most (ie ALL) users.

Netflix just gets worse and worse every day.

Jay March 1, 2013 at 10:19 am

The problem with kids and mature viewing material is compounded by the thumbnails, which display the frame where you left off watching. Actually, not always exactly the frame, but close to the frame. So even if the kids don’t click on your mature show, they could see a nude person, or something.

It is not about being honest with others about what you are watching (although it could be). It is about being able to provide adequate adult supervision for your young children, without condemning your tweens to yo gabba gabba re-runs.

On the other hand, I am glad to be able to monitor what my kids have watched, but there are easy ways to provide the best of both worlds. Netflix not addressing this issue really seems inexplicable.

Jon Hopkins February 22, 2013 at 8:50 am

I was searching for an answer to this and I landed on this workaround: by lowering the parental settings to G or something than nothing besides cartoons will show up unless someone knows the password to you account and can look up the viewing history. Notice that if you do your watching online anyone who as access to you account online can just click viewing history but if you are using it through an xbox, appletv, roku this should work. Note pretty but easier for some folks than running java code.

http://www.ask.com/answers/144714861/how-do-you-removed-recently-watched-movies-on-netflix-read-below

Bruce Simmons February 19, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Gang, I’m cleaning up this comment thread and code is coming soon… hang tite.

Alex Wallace February 19, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Hey Bruce Simmons,

Sure, I don’t mind pasting it here again.

I understand your concern about not knowing if it is malicious or not… I can definitely explain what it does.

You make good points, most people won’t know how to implement it… I could package it and make it semi-executable and provide a link to download it’s dependencies also… But I don’t see any means here to upload attachments…

I don’t have any account on any site where I could upload the package and the code and provide a link then… Being very, very busy right now, I’d invite someone to provide a link to a site that offers those services if interested

The code below is written in Java. It uses a java library commonly used to test websites, via which it opens up a web browser, logs in with the credentials provided to it when called via command line, and goes to a specified category in netflix and plays random movies however many times it is indicated via another command line argument.

It works fine, but I’m not sure it serves the purpose everyone wants: While it’ll fill up your recently watched list, Netflix also provides ‘suggestions’ based on everything you have watched, and not just what you recently watched…

Anyways, I have to do some work but here is the code again, and as long as I’m not offended when asked for it, I can help with it when I get time…

package com.rwmotloc.netflix;

import java.util.List;
import java.util.Random;
import org.openqa.selenium.By;
import org.openqa.selenium.WebDriver;
import org.openqa.selenium.WebElement;
import org.openqa.selenium.firefox.FirefoxDriver;

/**
*
* @author aw
*/
public class NetflixRecentlyWatchedBurier {

/**
* @param args the command line arguments
*/
public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
if (args.length != 4) {
printUsage();
System.exit(1);
}

String username = args[0];
String password = args[1];
String genreId = args[2];
int count = Integer.parseInt(args[3]);

WebDriver driver = new FirefoxDriver();

// go to netflix and login
driver.get(“https://signup.netflix.com”);
driver.findElement(By.xpath(“//a[@href='#do-login']“)).click();
driver.findElement(By.id(“email”)).sendKeys(username);
driver.findElement(By.id(“password”)).sendKeys(password);
driver.findElement(By.id(“login-form-contBtn”)).submit();

int seen = 0;
Random random = new Random();
while (seen < count) {
// go to the indicated genre page, get all movies and watch one randomly
driver.get("http://movies.netflix.com/WiGenre?agid=&quot; + genreId);
List movies = driver.findElements(By.xpath(“//a[contains(@href, '/WiPlayer?movieid=')]“));
WebElement movie = movies.get(random.nextInt(movies.size()));
WebElement image = driver.findElement(By.xpath(“//a[@href='"+movie.getAttribute("href") +"']/../img”));
String title = image.getAttribute(“alt”);
driver.get(movie.getAttribute(“href”));
// wait until the player is found, then watch for a few seconds
while (driver.findElements(By.id(“SLPlayer”)).size() < 1) {
Thread.sleep(3000); // wait a bit to check for the player again
}
// now watch it for a bit
Thread.sleep(15000);
seen++; // we've seen it ;) move on…
System.out.println(seen+". – Watched '"+title+"'");
}
// done… close the thing…
driver.close();
}

public static void printUsage() {
System.out.println("java -jar NetflixRecentlyWatchedBurier.jar username password rating count");
}
}

This requires that someone knows java to compile it and run it and get the dependency called selenium-server-standalone from http://docs.seleniumhq.org/
-

Bruce Simmons February 19, 2013 at 3:44 pm

No Bob, it’s not about feelings. [content removed. inaccurate info]

I wasn’t sure of the code, and I err on the side of caution. I’d think 99% of my readers have no clue what it was or how to implement it. If anyone had taken a moment to chat off line or here, to explain it, well, I’m usually pretty open-minded to civil discourse.

With that said, I see some folks would be interested in having the code put back. Alex, if you leave another comment with either

A) the code, fine. The others would probably appreciate it.
or
B) if you post a link to it somewhere else, my site is set up to hold comments with links for moderation. I’ll approve it as soon as I see/get to it.

Thanks gang. -Bruce

bob February 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Alex Wallace, can you post your code on a different site and link to it?

bob February 19, 2013 at 2:52 pm

So, Bruce, you stopped the WORLD from having a service available to them, to clear their watched queue, which it seems EVERYONE wants, because Alex had some ‘tude? So screw everyone else, you got your feeling hurt? I’ve been hunting on google and can NOT find a script like this anywhere. You should put it back up. What are your reasons for NOT having it up?

Bruce Simmons February 18, 2013 at 12:02 am

Sirhan… you make good points. Thanks for chiming in Sirhan.

Sirhan Kennedy February 16, 2013 at 5:49 pm

(1.) If a user deletes an item from history, it should still be easy for Netflix to retain a copy of the viewing history for the movie/tv licensors. They could probably even use it to generate recommendations — though users wouldn’t want that. Until 2012 they were retaining the viewing history of deleted accounts:
May 2012 “Netflix Inc. has resolved a class-action privacy lawsuit, resulting in the Los Gatos-based company agreeing to delete the video history and queue data of its former customers. The company said Wednesday it will do so within a year of a customer cancelling service”
http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2012/05/31/netflix-to-delete-past-users-viewing.html

(2.) If Netflix enabled the deleting of viewing history, how would your bro-in-law feel about his kids deleting their own history?

(3.) Alex, how bout u post a link to teh codez and stuff.

(4.) OP, you should let him post the codez, it will get you traffic. If you’re not sure about the code, post it on a coding forum and ask.

pixpox January 30, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Whats wrong with code in the comments section?

Rob M January 27, 2013 at 11:31 am

Netflix’s recently watched has 75 slots. If you’re willing to spare 10-15 min of repetitive tasks, you can quickly stop and start a bunch of movies that will push the less appropriate ones out of the queue. Once the movie loads (less than 3 seconds) it will be registered in the queue. Less elegant than Netflix simply allowing users to manage what movies appear in their recently watched queue or to stop Netflix from offering suggestions, but works nonetheless.

Bruce Simmons January 6, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Alex, I totally appreciate the premise behind supplying the script/code to help NETFLIX customers, but I can’t allow code be placed in the comments section of the site. Sorry bud. But thank you for trying.

Alex Wallace January 6, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Here is some javacode to pretend one has watched howevermany random movies from a given genre (removed by editor)

Mr. N January 2, 2013 at 12:52 am

I just spoke with a Netflix representative and the Netflix recommendation is to watch enough movies to push the undesirable movies off the list.

My response to him and recommendation to the community is to create a program to randomly chose 100 G or PG movies to watch for 30 seconds and then cancel and chose the next movie. This will push all the actually history off the list. I am going to write such a program. I would suggest others to do the same and publish them in the public domain.

This will force Netflix to reconsider as programs like these begin to be used it will 1) eat Netflix bandwidth cycling through movies your not actually watching and 2) screw up all the statistics that Netflix wants about what you “like” to watch.

Holding out on a delete history function is a bad decision on Netflix’s part, especially when the recommendations from their service reps are to push bogus data.

Mr. N

Mr. T March 21, 2012 at 10:01 am

The simple reason is money. Netflix profit comes from what is left over from your accumulated monthly subscriptions after expenses.
There ideal scheme is that you pay monthly and watch nothing.
Netflix has to spend money to maintain bandwidth and servers. Keeping a history available of what has been watched keeps people from browsing through movies they would not normally watch if it would be known to others. Think about it, how many more movies would you sample if others did not know you watched them? Multiply that by the amount of subscribers and that is a lot more use of their system. Netflix knows this. So this is their way to dampen the load on their system.

That’s my theory. Ignore their ridiculous reasons they post like honesty is the best policy.

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