Thanks to Facebook’s “frictionless sharing,” I know all kinds of things about what my friends and relatives are doing at any given moment. One thing I don’t know, though, is what movies they’re watching online.
The reason is thanks to one of the rare US privacy laws on the books, and one of the weirdest: The Video Privacy Protection Act. But it won’t be for long, if Facebook and Netflix have their way.
Yesterday the House passed HR 2471, a bill amending the VPPA that allows movie rental/streaming services to reveal the films you’ve watched, assuming you’ve given your informed written consent – which can be obtained over the Net.
In other words, by clicking Allow on Facebook, you could agree to let all your peeps know that you just watched “Hello Sister, Goodbye Life” on Netflix. Why you would want to do this, I don’t know.
Given the margin by which this 59-word snippet of law passed (303 to 116), I can’t see it getting massive opposition in the Senate or earning a presidential veto. They’ve got much bigger issues to avoid making decisions on in DC these days. So I’d consider this a done deal.
According to Maplight.org, interest groups supporting this bill – primarily the Digital Media Association, Facebook, and Netflix – have doled out over $1 million to Congressional members from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011. House members who voted yes on the bill got an average of 73 percent more from these groups (or $2,644 on average) than those who voted no. The top recipients of the digital industry’s largesse: California Democrats Anna Eshoo ($36K) and Zoe Lofgren ($40K), and Virginia Republicans Bob Goodlatte ($28K) and Eric Cantor ($24K).
See? We do have the best Congress money can buy. Just not your money or mine...