Computerworld takes a look at “frictionless sharing” with Netflix, the DVD rental and online video streaming service. There has been recent interest in Congress in changing the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988, which requires written consent from consumers before video rental records can be shared, and the consent must be given before each disclosure. The VPPA was passed after a reporter was able to obtain the video rental records of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. Netflix is pushing for changes to the VPPA that would affect disclosure of video rental or streaming on sites such as Facebook and allow for frictionless sharing — where what you watched would be automatically broadcast on Facebook or other social-media sites. The Netflix app that allows frictionless sharing is available in numerous countries, but not the United States. (Note that Netflix recently settled a privacy case that affected the company’s earnings.) Computerworld reports:
Do you like shoulder surfers? It would seem wise to raise both your security and your privacy hackles. On a security angle, shoulder surfing is a low-to-no hacking technique for acquiring sensitive or financial information. On a privacy angle, if you wanted to share with nosy shoulder surfers then you could do so of your own accord. Although it is considered “social,” that choice to share or not should be each users. There are dangers lurking under the surface of frictionless sharing apps.
The lack of choice in auto-sharing apps is the reason the appeal of Facebook’s frictionless sharing evades me; all that too much information (TMI) and in-your-face oversharing rubs me the wrong way. […]
Netflix has a Facebook app that auto-posts for subscribers, publicizing what movies you are watching and even making recommendations based on your friends’ viewing habits. Netflix offered its “frictionless” sharing tool to subscribers in 46 other countries, everywhere the company operates except in the USA. The “sole reason” it didn’t launch in the U.S. is due to a law written 24 years ago, the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA). The CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, also a Facebook board member, is backing a bill to change the U.S. law so the Netflix frictionless sharing app can automatically broadcast what you are watching. […]
[Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg wants you to share everything including music, reading, web-surfing and searches to which Neil Richards, professor of law at Washington University, said, “Not so fast.” Indeed Richards makes numerous valid points, “A world of automatic, always-on disclosure should give us pause.” […]
If you are interested, here is a great article about social readers and privacy law. I don’t have anything against Netflix, but I do value my privacy. If Netflix gets VPPA updated, hopefully it will follow Hulu’s lead of privacy by design and be turned off by default.