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.

Smart Home

Cloud slime, butter slime, scented slime -- we have your next DIY project covered

We researched dozens of different ingredients and tried several slime recipes. While some recipes are generally pretty safe, others are questionable at best. Which recipes should you use, and which should you avoid?
Smart Home

Google Home Hub vs. Amazon Echo Show

The Google Home Hub vs. Amazon Echo Show: which is better? Both are smart displays that control your smart home, but that's where the similarities end. We compare design, features, price and more to find out which is right for you.
Smart Home

Amazon Echo Show vs. Lenovo Smart Display

The Amazon Echo Show and Lenovo Smart Display are two popular smart displays, but which one is right for you? Learn about the displays, speakers, capabilities, and other important features before you decide which to buy.

These 30 useful apps are absolutely essential for Mac lovers

There are literally hundreds of thousands of great software programs compatible with MacOS, but which should you download? Look no further than our list of the best Mac apps you can find for the latest MacOS and how they can help out your…
Home Theater

Bask in the glory of your home theater with these 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays

What good is a 4K TV if you don't have the means of pushing it to its limits? Here are our favorite 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays, all of which are nothing short of stunning. It'll make you wonder why you haven't always watched movies this way.
Home Theater

PlayStation Vue adds more local channels, bringing the total to over 600

PlayStation Vue is Sony's answer to live TV without the need for a cable or satellite TV subscription. To help you understand the service, its plans, and numerous features, we've created this handy guide.
Movies & TV

Michelle Yeoh reportedly in talks for stand-alone ‘Star Trek’ show

Reports claims that actress Michelle Yeoh is in talks to reprise her Star Trek: Discovery role in a spin-off series. The series will focus on Georgiou being recruited into Section 31, a secretive organization within Starfleet.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: ‘Buster Scruggs,’ ‘Missing Link,’ ‘Mowgli’ and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. That's why we round up the best ones for you. This week, it's new trailers for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Mortal Engines, and the first trailer for Missing…
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (November 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: ‘Room 104,’ German thriller ‘Beat,’ and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: Room 104 returns for a second season, Robert the Bruce fights for Scotland's throne, and more.