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.