TVs & Audio | December 7, 2023
It’s always traumatic when a beloved app among users updates and completely changes its interface and functionality. Many times, the change is worthwhile, and fears are unfounded, but in other cases, the updates can be so off-putting that users start looking for alternatives. The latest update of Plex, released this November, seems to fall into the latter category.
And it’s a shame because Plex was one of the best alternative apps to Netflix, possibly the best, for watching movies and series anywhere; it initially started as a home media content server but has evolved over the years into a media center that allows both managing our video library and watching licensed content through streaming.
Despite the great success they achieved, or perhaps because of it, Plex owners felt the need to take the next step with a major update that introduced an innovation that no one asked for: an integrated social network. The idea had potential: by creating an account on Plex, we could share what we are watching with our friends and even organize remote viewings so that everyone watches the same movie at the same time and comments on it, even if each person is at home.
However, it is this social network that has plunged Plex into a major privacy controversy; users are discovering the hard way that Plex now shares everything we are watching with our friends on the social network. And since Plex allows playing personal videos stored on the hard drive, this means that many people are finding out about our most intimate and personal tastes and activities; for example, if we are watching adult content.
The new feature is called ‘Discover Together’ and includes an ‘Activity’ tab that allows us to see what our friends on Plex are playing on their devices; additionally, Plex automatically sends an email with the activity every week, as if that weren’t enough.
The big problem is that this feature is activated by default, so many people have discovered that their own program is ‘snitching’ on the content they are watching to their friends without them doing anything. Plex’s official forums and Reddit are filling up with users complaining that they are finding out everything their friends are doing, including sensitive and private content. Many users are already announcing that they are looking for alternatives to Plex and that this change represents a loss of trust.
At the moment, Plex has not publicly responded to the controversy. The good news is that it is possible to deactivate the function, and Plex will not automatically share what we are watching. To do this, we first need to go to our Plex profile through the official service website.
Next, click on the “Privacy Options,” and in “My Playback History,” change it to the “Private” option (it defaults to “Friends Only”). Finally, remember to click “Save” for the changes to take effect. From then on, Plex will not share what we are watching with our friends.