Senate Discussing Changes To VPPA TodayBy: Zach Walton - September 20, 2012
Have you ever wondered why you can’t share what you’re watching on Netflix via Facebook? You can thank VPPA for that. The Video Privacy Protection Act was introduced in 1984 in response to a Supreme Court nominee’s video rental records being made public. The bill made sense at the time, but it just doesn’t seem to make sense in our increasingly connected and social world. That’s why the Senate is now in discussions to update the VPPA to modern standards.
In its current form, the VPPA prevents anybody from disclosing the video history of their customers. This prevents users from being able to share what movies or TV shows they have been watching on Netflix or Hulu. It was meant to protect politicians from the judgmental eye of the public, but it’s now being used to enforce privacy protections on people that don’t really want to be protected.
As you can guess, Netflix is pushing hard to have this bill updated. They are able to offer Facebook sharing in every country they operate in except for the U.S. Your average Netflix watcher would probably want the bill updated as well. People love to share every moment of their life on Facebook and Netflix has been missing out on the free advertising that comes with Facebook sharing.
From the sounds of it, it seems that nobody has any objections to the VPPA being updated. Netflix is happy and the consumer is happy. Wait, what’s that? It seems that one party is objecting to the bill being updated. The Electronic Privacy Information Center told a Senate committee that VPPA is fine just the way it is. They even suggested that the Senate update the bill with even stronger privacy protection.
Their reasoning is that Netflix isn’t putting in enough privacy protections into their information sharing service. At the moment, users opt in to have their viewing history shared via Facebook and every title from that point on is shared. They also feel that weakening the VPPA will give any Internet company the right to seek consent to share consumer data without any real input from the user.
On one hand, EPIC makes a very valid point. The ultimate privacy protection would give users the choice to share only specific movies that they’re watching. Some people probably wouldn’t want their entire viewing history – softcore European romance flicks and all – being broadcast across all of Facebook. Then again, sharing is entirely optional. Netflix isn’t forcing you to share via Facebook.
According to CNET, a Senate committee is meeting today to discuss the updated bill. The House has already passed it, but the Senate will probably take a little longer. They like to mull things over and ask stupid questions before they even come to a vote. Even then, I don’t see any real privacy threats in updating an old bill that should never have been passed in the first place.