There were many updates to Facebook Thursday, which were aimed at easing the sharing of the lives of millions through the timeline feature. The one thing they are not allowed to share are details of what movies they have rented. While those who rent music from Spotify can post the songs they are listening too, posting your Netflix movies is only allowable in Canada and Latin America.
Federal law is blocking Netflix from allowing Americans from sharing the same info. This law is 25 years old, which predates the Internet, and is called the Video Privacy Protection Act. This quarter-of-a-century-old law was concocted by Congress to protect Robert Bork, who failed to be appointed to the Supreme Court, from the Washington City Paper. They had published his video rental history and this law stipulated that a consumer must consent to the publicizing of each and every rental.
Congress and Netflix are cooperating to bring the books up to date with the new world of Facebook. This is not about whether or not the amount of personal information being shared is too much. Many love sharing so many details about their lives on Facebook, even if it is what they ate for breakfast. What is at stake is a legislation bought by Netflix lobbying at a price tag of $200,000.
Facebook has already been through one lawsuit for posting Blockbuster data on rentals. So you can imagine that those concerned about privacy are upset.
H.R. 2471, the proposed legislation, gives the consumer the possibility of opting in, passing consent to Netflix, or any other video service, to publicize on Facebook video rental lists of the consumer. For example, they will be allowed to send it through the news feed.
Jim Dempsey, vice president of public policy are the Center for Democracy and Technology believes the change makes solid sense. “We want to see consent be given a clearer role and not disappear in the document. The sharing of their data should not accidentally slip by them.”
The real question is whether it should be automatic by changing the Video Privacy Protection Act. Perhaps there should be some sort of share button the user should be required to click for consent. If that were the case, then Facebook users would be left wide open to far more aggressive advertising ploys than they are not. This could even end in embarrassment for some who had forgotten the feature was on and rented a sordid vid.
On EPIC’s website it is stated that the law protects from a very particular kind of collection of consumer data. Marc Rotenberg, Electronic Privacy Center’s executive director, argued that Facebook users already have the possibility of manually adding to their timeline any films they happen to be viewing. He volleys that this battle is over who controls whether or not and when the information is made public. The companies want to wrest control from the consumer.
We are watching corporations taking advantage of the clash between the nature of law getting outdated by the advances of technology and social practices. Will law makers protect the civilian population or cave in to the big companies?