Netflix users can soon share videos through Facebook… if Congress says it’s OK


It’s already possible for Facebook users to share links, thoughts, complaints, and what songs they’re listening to on Spotify. But which movies they’ve watched on Netflix, well, that’s a viper’s nest. A viper’s nest that’s currently illegal under U.S. law. Really.

That could all soon change, however, thanks to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has proposed an amendment to the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, a much-debated cybersecurity bill that the Senate will take up for consideration next week.

Leahy’s amendment would alter the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) — which was authored by Leahy in 1988 after the Washington City Paper published a list of video rentals by controversial Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork — to allow Facebook users to tell each other which Netflix videos they just watch automatically. (Of course, you are already able to do this manually, by your own volition.) As written, the VPPA requires written consumer consent to share video history information, or a warrant from the police. If a company divulges video history data, customers can sue for upto $2,500 per violation, under VPPA.

According to The Hill, Netflix has spent nearly $400,000 lobbying Congress this year. Part of that money was spent on changing the VPPA, and the rest went toward Net neutrality and other Web-related issues. Netflix eventually wants to allow users to be able to stream videos through their Facebook accounts.

Late last year, the House passed a bill that would allow Netflix users to share their video history automatically with Facebook friends. No such legislation has yet made it through both houses of Congress.

While the Leahy amendment seems like a no-brainer, the rest of the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (CSA2012) is less straightforward. Despite receiving praise from civil liberty advocates for the bill’s protections for personal privacy, the Electronic Frontier Foundation remains opposed to the bill. That could change, however, if an amendment from Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is adopted. Franken’s provision would remove an entire section of CSA2012 (Section 701) that “provides companies with the explicit right to monitor private user communications and engage in countermeasures,” according to the EFF. Countermeasures could include allowing Internet service providers to block anonymizing technologies like Tor.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the CSA2012 debates next week, so check back with Digital Trends for the latest from Capitol Hill’s Internet agenda.

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