In 1988, Congress enacted the Video Privacy Protection Act after a newspaper printed the video rental history of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. It could have been quite embarrassing and scandalous but lucky for Bork he was more into Hitchcock thrillers and James Bond than blue movies and graphic violence.
After this horrendous invasion of privacy, someone penned a law and pushed it through Congress to stop video companies from sharing this kind of information in the future. At the time, they didn’t know about Netflix, online streaming, or Facebook.
Netflix has been lobbying to have the law changed and this week they won the war. Congress passed an amendment that will allow video viewers to opt-in to total social sharing. Which means, sometime in 2013, Netflix will begin adding your viewing history to your Facebook newsfeed, with your permission.
Here’s what I don’t get. Hulu already has a social component that posts my choices to Facebook when I hit the switch. How are they getting around the law? I saw some reference to a loop hole that allows companies to share video information as long as they get permission every time. This new version of the law will only require a blanket yes or no, which is obviously better for Netflix and marketers who want to see a cumulative list.
Congress declined to add a provision that requires law enforcement agencies to get a search warrant for email messages dating back more than six months (right now six months is the cut off). Now why there’s an email component in the Video Privacy Protection Act is beyond me.
There are people who will be very upset by this change in the law. Personally, I got a shock when I found out that Hulu was sharing my information on my Facebook feed. Not that I’m embarrassed by my viewing history. . . . well, actually. . . let’s just say, I see trouble on the horizon.
What bothers me most about this piece of news is not the invasion of my viewing privacy or the selling of my personal habits to marketers. What bothers me is that Congress is taking time to vote on ridiculous laws like this. Don’t they have better things to do then sit around debating the pros and cons of social sharing? Do we really need the government to protect us from Netflix?
The way I see it, sites such as Netflix and Hulu don’t even stream the kinds of movies you’d need to keep hidden from your boss or your mother. I’ll come clean. My recent Netflix history includes numerous episodes of Numb3rs, old Saturday Night Live, and Kolchak the Night Stalker.
Ready to share your video history with the world?
Cartoon: Fort Lauderdale News/Sun-Sentinel