Netflix frustrated over Facebook app legality

Posted by Raven Lovecraft

Netflix is frustrated that it's still illegal to release its Facebook app in the US.

Did you that it’s actually illegal for Netflix to share your movie "rental" history with the public? There’s a law called the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), passed in 1988, to that effect.

And now Netflix is facing a Congressional subcommittee because of its Facebook app that allows users to willingly share their streaming information online. And unfortunately, some Senators are refusing to accept changes that should be made to the 24-year-old measure.

Netflix's Facebook app is up and running in 46 other countries.

Interestingly, the VPPA came about after a Supreme Court nominee, Robert Bork, found a list of his video rental records printed in a news publication. Let’s just say they weren’t all Disney flicks, and Bork didn’t receive approval for the nomination.

So its origins are about keeping politicians protected from their own personal lives, which is why you can imagine there is some resistance to change.

The House of Representatives passed an amended version of the law last month, giving users the ability to consent to having their information shared. This would make the Netflix Facebook app legal. But on the Senate side of things, there’s a different story.

Democrats are poised to block the new law from being enacted because they call it too much of an invasion of privacy. "A one-time check off that has the effect of an all-time surrender of privacy does not seem to me the best course for consumers," said Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy when this issue came up last year. In other words, these guys don’t get it.

Meanwhile, it's perfectly legal for Hulu to share user activity, since it doesn't deal with physical discs as outlined in the VPPA. Netflix has been battling this issue for years, and hopes that if the political climate changes in November, it might finally be able to have its wishes granted.