Posted April 18, 2008 7:28 pm by with 13 comments

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Blockbuster is being sued over their Facebook advertising campaign. Texas resident Cathryn Elaine Harris says Blockbuster violated the federal Videotape Privacy Protection Act. The company used the Facebook Beacon that told what movies she rents.

Harris says Facebook didn’t get her written consent to share the information. She filed a class-action suit, and is asking for at least $2,500 for each violation of the statute. The law was passed in 1988 after a newspaper obtained the video rental records of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.

Beacon works by tracking what people on Facebook purchase on other websites, including Blockbuster’s site. Then it tells your Facebook friends in hopes that they’ll want to also want to buy similar products.

Privacy advocates forced Facebook to make the program opt-in, rather than an obscured opt-out. Still, Beacon supposedly still shares information about people’s Blockbuster purchases to Facebook, unless you check a box telling Blockbuster to never send such information (opt-out).

Blockbuster’s response wasn’t encouraging: “Our alliance with Facebook included numerous levels of privacy protection built in for our online subscribers,” a spokesman said.

Facebook has gotten a lot of heat for Beacon and other retailers have used the program but this case is stronger. U.S. laws provide have strong privacy protection for people who rent or buy videos.

  • Ridiculous, if she didn’t want her information shared, she should have disabled beacon. The big question though is why she wanted to hide what videos she rented/bought. She has a right to her own privacy and all, but what does it matter if your friends know what movies you rented? (unless she rented some XXX) ^_^

  • frivolous lawsuit, imo. I agree with the above poster, if she didn’t want her information shared, she should have disabled the beacon!

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  • It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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  • What a farce. Ambulance chasers now are looking for hi-tech avenues.

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  • Any lawsuit from a civilian (rather than another company) that involves any big company or startup will always be frivolous. But I’d like to ask… would any of YOU have thought of filing the lawsuit. I’d say she’s smart, and yes… she was probably renting some adult videos LoL

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    I can’t say I would start a law suit unless the breach of privacy caused some real damage to my reputation (a possiblility given my rental habits – lol).

    Isn’t it ironic that someone who complains about the loss of privacy then ends up in national news and all over the internet?

  • Weird, I wonder what she rented that was so dirty or embarrassing?

  • I can see her point. She probably just likes to have some privacy – I’m not sure if I’d want my friends knowing everything I do all the time, but I wouldn’t sue over it.

    The lawsuit is a little much…maybe just figure out how to turn it off.

    Privacy aside, it seems like a good way to advertise.

  • I am very interested to know the update of this case.

  • The lawsuit is a bit much but she’s probably trying to simply make an example of what she thinks is crossing the line as too many sites are doing this these days. We say good for her?

  • Ugh, people like this disgust me. Not only is she a litigious moron, but she’s just guaranteed that everyone who hears about this lawsuit is going to assume she was renting porn, whether it’s true or not.

  • I am very interested