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President Obama Signs Amended Video Privacy Protection Act

11 Jan, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Signing paves way for Netflix and other services to allow users to share rental habits on Facebook

President Obama Jan. 10 signed an amended Video Privacy Protection Act paving the way for movie rental services to allow users to share their rental history on social media sites such as Facebook.

The signing is a big win for Netflix, which has spent more than $1 million lobbying Congress to amend the 1988 Act. Netflix has said it would begin rolling out the social media feature this year in the United States after Obama signed H.R. 6671.

Netflix subscribers abroad already can share their movie and TV viewing habits on Facebook.

The VPPA came about following the contentious Supreme Court confirmation process for the late Robert Bork, whose Blockbuster rental history was disclosed without his permission by a newspaper.

With the advent of social media, the VPPA has come into play on a few occasions, including a 2008 class-action lawsuit against Blockbuster, which had released customer rental habits on a site (called Beacon) created by Facebook. The social network has since shuttered Facebook Beacon.

Netflix was charged with a similar violation of the VPPA in a 2009 legal suit, which alleged the rental service disclosed rental histories when administering its Netflix prize contest. At the time, Netflix offered $1 million to anyone who could improve by more than 10% an algorithm predicting users’ rental habits.

Netflix awarded the prize in 2009 to a group of math scientists and then discontinued the contest.

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