December 28, 2012
Netflix Looks To Share User Data With Facebook Under New Bill
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
A bill now awaits President Obama´s signature which would allow Netflix and other video streaming services to share their user data with third-parties. This means that, pending Obama´s approval, these video streaming companies, including Netflix, could begin sharing user viewing history with Facebook and the like. While such a feature could prove handy to those who simply want to share their favorite movies with their friends, it could also give Facebook and other social services even more information about their users than they currently have access to.
Currently, the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) prevents any video services such as Hulu or Netflix from sharing the rental history of any of their customers without written consent. This act was signed by President Reagan in 1998 in order to prevent the “wrongful disclosure of video tape rental or sale records [or other similar audio visual materials, to cover items such as video games and the future DVD format.”
Netflix has been working to push this amendment through the House and the Senate and is understandably thrilled with its performance thus far.
“We are pleased that the Senate moved so quickly after the House,” said a Netflix spokesman in a statement to Talking Points Memo. “We plan to introduce social features for our US members in 2013, after the president signs it.”
Netflix has long been awaiting the legal go-ahead to introduce some of these sharing features, such as the ability to share what movies they´ve watched with their Facebook friends via the Netflix and Facebook apps. Users in other countries such as Canada and Latin America are already using this feature. While against the letter of the law in America, Netflix is free to share this sort of data with social services.
Of course, if this amendment passes, Netflix and other video streaming services will still be required to obtain user consent before sharing the information with third parties.
Other video services have tested this somewhat outdated law in the past.
Blockbuster, for instance, had a class action lawsuit filed against them for releasing rental history and sales records to Facebook. A Texas resident filed the suit, claiming Blockbuster violated this act when they signed up to be a part of Facebook´s Beacon advertising service.
"Our alliance with Facebook included numerous levels of privacy protection built in for our online subscribers,” explained Blockbuster in an emailed statement. “While we cannot discuss the specifics of this lawsuit, we intend to vigorously defend the company in this litigation.”
According to Talking Points Memo, Netflix and others will be required to receive “informed, written consent” before shooting off their data to other services. This consent can also be acquired online via “Internet forms.” Users will also be able to withdraw their consent at any time, preventing Netflix from sharing this information with third parties.