Netflix users will soon be able to share every film they have watched with their Facebook friends – allowing the social networking giant even more lucrative information on its users’ leisure time.
Up until now the Video Privacy Protection Act prohibited Netflix and other streaming services such as Hulu from sharing their customers’ history or allowing them to post it themselves.
However, Congress has now passed a bill to the 1988 act that allows users to opt in or out of forthcoming Facebook ‘social sharing’ features, which let advertisers reach customers who watch movies on the streaming sites but do not ‘like’ it on those sites.
The Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) previously prevented these actions by stating in law that a person’s movie rental history cannot be disclosed without written consent – the law was enacted after supreme court hopeful Robert Bork’s rental history was leaked to Washington D.C.’s City Paper in 1987.
While this means that anyone’s obsession with violent Honk Kong martial arts movies cannot be shared among large internet corporations like Facebook, Netflix will give its customers the opportunity to turn off the sharing feature.
‘We are pleased that the Senate moved so quickly after the House,’ a Netflix spokesperson told TPM in a statement.
‘We plan to introduce social features for our US members in 2013, after the president signs it.’
Netflix has been attempting to allow its users to link their Netflix and Facebook accounts since 2011 to allow friends to share online the movies they have watched.
Users in Canada and Latin America have had the ability to do this since 2011, but Netflix has been prevented by the VPPA from doing this in the United States, where the majority of its 20 million customers are based.
Hulu, a competitor of Netflix, has been involved in a battle in the Californian courts since 2011 for its decision to allow Facebook integration – and it is still fighting.
The new bill forces companies to obtain ‘informed, written consent,’ for sharing their information (though this can also be done through Internet forms), and also allows customers to withdraw consent from sharing their viewed video records or recommendations at any time, entirely or ‘case-by-case,’ that is video-by-video.
However, media commentators have questioned who will allow their viewing habits to be shared, or if they will even begin to ‘like’ titles allowing others to see what they enjoy to watch.
They question is whether people will want others to know their favourite Harry Potter film, or if indeed they even watch Harry Potter, especially if this goes contrary to what they have said in public.
James Gilbert | Elite.