Netflix-Facebook bill passes U.S. House without email privacy protections

the unintended upside of watching way too much netflix

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would make it easier for Web users to share on social networks the videos they’ve watched or recommend. But privacy advocates have criticized the House for excluding provisions that would have prevented law enforcement from viewing citizens’ emails and other online documents without a search warrant.

Passed by a voice vote, the bill, H.R. 6671, amends the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) to allow companies like Netflix to enable users to opt-in to sharing which movies or TV shows they’ve watched with friends on Facebook or other social networks through the Web. In its current form, the VPPA requires written consent in order for a video rental or streaming service to disclose customers’ rental histories.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), a sponsor of H.R. 6671, says the bill is a win for “social media users, especially young people” and a necessary move to bring legislation into the current technological age.

“Social media users, especially young people, do not understand why they cannot share information about their favorite movies or TV shows in the same way that they can music or books,” said Goodlatte in a statement. “H.R. 6671 preserves careful protections for consumers’ privacy while modernizing the law to empower consumers to do more with their video consumption preferences, including sharing favorite TV shows or recently watched movies via social media networks in a simple way.”

Though more lax than the VPPA, H.R. 6671 contains built-in privacy protections that were not included in a similar bill, H.R. 2471, passed by the House a year ago. The new version requires online video services to provide “clear and conspicuous” ways for users to opt-out of sharing at any time. And it mandates that the opt-in automatically expires after two years, at which point users will have to reconfirm their opt-in status.

“This bipartisan bill is truly pro-consumer and places the decision of whether or not to share video rentals with one’s friends squarely in the hands of the consumer,” Goodlatte said.

The bill passed by the House this week has upset citizen protection groups like the American Civil Liberties Union because it does not include a provision added to the original version by the Senate Judiciary Committee that would have updated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) to require law enforcement to obtain a probable-cause search warrant before accessing citizens’ online communications, like email or instant messages, or files stored with cloud storage services, like Dropbox.

“Changes to electronic privacy cannot happen piecemeal,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the ACLU, in a statement. “If we are to achieve true reform – which means getting full protection for Americans’ in-boxes and private communication – we cannot give priority to special interests. If they want updates to our privacy laws, they should have to wait in line with the American people.”

In its current form, the ECPA allows law enforcement to access citizens’ files and communications stored by a third party for more than 180 days with a subpoena, not a search warrant.

H.R. 6671 will now head to the Senate, where, according to The Hill, it is expected to be considered within weeks.

Product Review

Apple brought ECG tracking to consumers. Withings is making it affordable

The Apple Watch Series 4 starts at $400, and the highlight function is the electrocardiogram, which has the potential to save lives. Withings’ new Move ECG has the same capability but at a fraction of the cost.
Mobile

Biometric phone unlocks can’t be forced by feds, says U.S. judge

Fingerprint and face unlocks used to not be protected by the Fifth Amendment, but that may soon change. A judge in California has ruled biometric unlocking methods of all kinds are protected in the same way as passcodes.
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.
Emerging Tech

Scientists debate mysterious flash of light in space, known as ‘The Cow’

On June 16, 2018 there was an unusual flash in the sky which puzzled astronomers around the world. NASA researchers have been collecting data on the event and have shared two competing theories for what could have caused it.
Home Theater

Sling TV offers free shows, a la carte subscription channels to Roku users

If you are among a select group of Roku users, Sling TV has added free TV shows and the option to subscribe to individual channels without having to subscribe to the company's base level of channels.
Gaming

Break out the Wii: ‘Just Dance’ movie reportedly in the works

Sony's Screen Gems has reportedly acquired the film rights to the Just Dance video game series from Ubisoft, which previously helped bring the game Assassin's Creed to the big screen in 2016.
Movies & TV

Apple’s first original feature film reunites Bill Murray, Sofia Coppola

The Lost in Translation team of Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray will reunite with their A Very Murray Christmas collaborator Rashida Jones for On the Rocks, Apple and studio A24's first official feature together.
Movies & TV

You can get a screaming deal on LG OLED TVs just in time for the Super Bowl

LG is offering steep discounts on its critically acclaimed OLED TV models just in time for the Super Bowl, letting discerning viewers watch their favorite athletes with higher picture quality than ever.
Movies & TV

Jason Reitman’s ‘Ghostbusters’ sequel already has a creepy teaser trailer

Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, has secretly co-written a follow-up to the 1984 supernatural comedy. Filming begins this summer, but it's not clear if the original Ghostbusters will reprise their roles.
Movies & TV

From premiere date to footage: Here's all we have on 'Game of Thrones' season 8

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Movies & TV

Netflix recruits Steve Carell for the Trump-inspired comedy ‘Space Force’

Steve Carell, Netflix, and The Office showrunner Greg Daniels are teaming up for Space Force, a workplace comedy poking fun at the Trump White House's plans to establish a sixth branch of the U.S. military.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Movies & TV

New trailer for 'The Punisher' season 2 teases a bloody showdown

The Punisher is getting a second season on Netflix, with Jon Bernthal returning to play Marvel Comics' gun-toting antihero Frank Castle. Here's everything we know about season 2 of The Punisher so far.
Movies & TV

The ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ trailer has finally arrived

Lionsgate has released the first, full-length trailer for John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, the third installment of the action franchise that casts Keanu Reeves as the world's greatest assassin.