1980s Law Prevents Sharing Netflix Movie Watching on Facebook
by Leslie Meredith, TechNewsDaily Senior Writer
January 23 2012 05:10 PM ET
Facebook last week unleashed another 60 social apps that automatically post music, purchases and other activities of its users, but still no information related to Netflix or any other commercial video-sharing apps, such as Hulu Plus. What's the holdup?
"Unfortunately, U.S. members can not currently connect their Netflix accounts to Facebook because of the ambiguous Video Privacy Protection Act. We hope this will change soon," Netflix said in a statement last month.
The 1988 law makes it illegal for a video provider to share someone's viewing history without written consent every time a video is watched and shared. That's why British Facebookers can see what movies their friends have watched, but users in the United States cannot. (Congress passed the law in 1988 after Robert Bork's video-rental history was published during his Supreme Court nomination hearings. While his choice of movies was unremarkable, the leak to the press was considered an invasion of privacy.) Facebook first ran afoul of the act in 1999 with its Beacon program, which revealed rental histories from Blockbuster customers.
But times have changed. Last month, the House passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R- Va.) to amend the act. The measure would allow Facebook users to authorize, just once, a video-sharing app online that would permit automatically sharing all subsequent movie views with Facebook friends. House Resolution 2471 has been sent to the Senate and now sits with the judiciary committee.
Until legislation is passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama, Facebook users will have to be content with listening, reading, cooking and traveling. Watching will remain a private activity.