Netflix Lobbies To Revise Video Privacy Law

Netflix is continuing to lobby to modify a 1988 privacy law that protects the confidentiality of people's movie rental records.

The Video Privacy Protection Act prohibits movie rental companies from disclosing information about which films people have seen without their written permission. Lawmakers passed the bill after a Washington newspaper printed the records of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings reiterated yesterday at F8 that the law prevents the company from integrating with Facebook in the U.S. The service rolling out in other countries allows Facebook members to see what their Facebook friends have watched. "This makes it easier and more fun to find new television series and movies to watch," Facebook's Tom Willerer enthuses in the company's blog.

Whether the video privacy protection law would really prohibit this integration if users opted in isn't completely clear. Michael Drobac, director of government relations at the company, says only that the law "creates some confusion" about the ability to "to let U.S. members automatically share the television shows and movies they watch with their friends on Facebook."

Drobac now urges consumers to support H.R. 2471, which would explicitly allow people to consent online to disclosure of their records on an ongoing basis. He is asking people to email their representatives in favor of the proposed revision.

Perhaps some users will do so, but this proposal doesn't seem likely to draw a groundswell of support. After all, people can already post information about movies they have watched to Facebook, and anyone with a Web connection can stream movies without also having a Facebook account.

Perhaps for that reason, Netflix isn't just counting on consumer support. It's spent almost $200,000 in Washington this year, the Electronic Privacy Information Center reports.

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