So I was watching The Mindy Project last night (am I the only one still watching? I mean, look, it’s mostly harmless, and there’s only a few episodes left, so…) and after the episode ended, I was returned to that confounding, shiny splash screen that, while attractive, is frustrating for me to navigate, because I’ve had Hulu since before they were pretending they were aliens and apparently part of being an adult means being annoyed at minor navigational changes that are forced upon us.
But more annoying than the navigational issues (to me, at least) was a seeming change in the recommendation algorithm, which promised to learn what sorts of shows I like, which, look, I know you’re really just mining me for big data, but if it means you make my life easier, I can get on board.
The recommendations, however, have never been great. Mostly a mix of shows I’ve already watched (so, you know, real big swing there) and shows I’ve never seen and have no idea why the all-knowing Hulu algorithm thinks I would be interested in (Nashville, various shows starring real housewives or some vague combination of Kardashians).
In an effort to fix this, I went into my profile, which is where I learned what had really been going on.
Because once I went to my viewing history, it became clear that someone else had been watching along with me.
If you don’t have Hulu (or hey, maybe even if you do), you may not be aware that their security setup is pretty minimal. There’s no two-factor authentication (which, yes, I know can be defeated, but it’s better than nothing), or even an option to email me when my account logs in on a new device or browser. Which means that once your credentials get out there in the world, the only way to know that anything weird is happening is to monitor it yourself, by looking at what devices are logged in, or what you’ve been watching.
Thankfully, it didn’t look like anything (particularly) malicious had been done with my account - my credit card information hadn’t leaked, and no other changes had been made. As far as I could tell, the account was only being accessed by these randos for viewing purposes. So once I logged out of all websites and devices and changed my password, I became curious about the people who had been using my account. Who were they? What could I learn by looking through the sections of my viewing history that were not mine?
So I began digging. And… turns out, the people who decided to “borrow” my account seemed like ordinary folk. They tended to watch more current movies than I do. They watched pretty much everything available that had Mark Wahlberg. Also a lot of Nashville (so that’s where it came from!), Private Practice, and, for some reason, Fear Factor.
I continued on, in the hopes of discovering more. I passed The Cutting Edge and Dawson’s Creek, but those were both definitely me.
Indiana Jones could’ve been me… wait, they watched Crystal Skull? On my account?
HOW DARE THEY DO THIS TO MY GOOD VIRTUAL NAME!
I kept going, further and further back. What else had these monsters wrought on my viewing history?
It was worse than I had imagined.
They watched LA Dragnet? You mean the show where they tried to convince us that Al Bundy was a grizzled detective?
They watched The Return of Jezebel James, which is both the Parker Posey project that shall not be named AND the Amy Sherman-Palladino project that shall not be named?
They watched Sit Down, Shut Up? What, were they tricked into watching that just because Mitch Hurwitz was involved and we were all still hurting from the loss of Arrested Development?
Oh… wait. Those last three all were viewed way before my account was compromised, which I know because Hulu showed me when these other devices all signed in.
Which means, the monster who watched those shows… is me.
(Seriously though, everyone should probably check their Hulu accounts from time to time to make sure you haven’t been accidentally “sharing” your account with a bunch of randos! Besides changing your password, don’t forget to remove devices that aren’t yours and log out of other computers. This guide may help.)