Senate balks at Netflix Facebook app

Nathan Pensky · February 1, 2012 · Short URL:

Amended legislation that would allow Netflix to use Facebook's Open Graph gets tripped up in Senate

Lawmakers are giving Netflix a hard time as the movie rental and streaming service tries to convince them to allow its users to share information on Facebook about the shows and movies they're watching on its service.

The online streaming service released a Facebook app last year that recommends movies and shows to people, based on their friends' likes. But Netflix doesn't have this available for U.S. users because of a law passed in 1988, the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), which made it illegal to share information on what movies a person rents.

The US House of Representatives passed an amended version of VPPA last December, and the bill has subsequently been passed to the Senate for review.

But a couple of prominent Democrat Senators appear unconvinced on there views to make any changes to VPPA to accommodate Netflix, among them Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) who wrote the original VPPA as well as that scourge of the Web, the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

“[This is a case of] dominant corporate interests (enticing) a check off in order to receive what may seem like a fun new app or service... 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 Sen. Leahy, at a hearing on Tuesday.

By "one-time check off," Sen. Leahy is referring to the opt-in approval of the Netflix app, which would allow Facebook to display user information.

Facebook Open Graph

Some of you may have seen this information for other services. Over the past few months that Facebook has implemented its Open Graph platform, which allows Facebook users to have information about what they're reading, watching, or listening to posted on their pages through apps.

For example, if I approve the Wall Street Journal app, then whever I read a story on the WSJ website, it shows up on my Facebook feed and my friends can click on the same story and go immediately to it.

So far there has been one notable absence on Facebook's Open Graph, Netflix, because of this 1998 law.

At the time, this applied only to VHS (remember those?), and people generally had no interest in letting anyone know what movies they're watching. But since the advent of social networking, people are sharing all kinds of stuff, and they're outraged - OUTRAGED - that they can't immediately share which movies they're watching with the world.

Hmm, despite being the PIPA-authoring, scourge of the Web, that guy's actually making some sense... 

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