Netflix gets Facebook integration, but it's a mixed bag

With no individual user profiles, you can see what your friend's roommate's boyfriend likes

Technology trends and news by Faith Merino
March 13, 2013
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Netflix has finally gotten social thanks to the passage of a bill that updates the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act, which formerly prohibited video providers from sharing their customers' viewing history with others. Starting this week, users can opt in to link their Netflix and Facebook accounts to automatically share their viewing habits and see what their friends are watching.

It’s kind of a mixed bag, since Netflix has yet to deliver individual user profiles, so they kind of put the cart before the horse on this one. My friends and I can share our viewing habits on Facebook and see that our kids have a shared affinity for Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba. If my friends see a string of ‘80s Kurt Russell action movies in my recently watched list, hopefully they’ll know that those are the movies my husband watches when I’m not around.

In January, Netflix announced at CES that individual user profiles were in the works. There’s no word yet on when those profiles will be available, and the company did not respond to inquiries from Vator, but the team said in January that testing was ongoing and could take as long as six months. In the meantime, people will have to muddle through their friends’ families’ viewing habits.

"There are few better ways to find a movie or TV series you'll love than hearing about it from your friends. Facebook already makes it easy for our international members to connect with friends over TV shows and movies and we're thrilled to now bring this experience to our U.S. members,” said Netflix VP of product innovation Tim Willerer, in a statement.

Netflix said in its release that social features will continue to evolve as new capabilities are being tested. One feature will allow users to specifically share their favorite titles on Facebook and discuss with friends.

The Facebook integration was more than a year in the making as Netflix has been lobbying to update the 1988 VPPA, which came about when journalists got a hold of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental history and published it. Congress responded by making it illegal for video providers to release the viewing records of their customers. Netflix announced in 2011 that it was planning to integrate with Facebook, but ran into roadblocks with the VPPA. In December 2012, Congress passed the updated law, which was signed into effect by President Obama this year.

"With their integration, Netflix has a new opportunity to reach the more than one billion people on Facebook. We look forward to Netflix continuing to integrate with Facebook and offering their community rich ways to discover movies and TV shows with their friends,” said Facebook director of platform partnerships and operations Justin Osofsky, in a statement. 


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