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Netflix Subs on Facebook Can Now Share Rental Data – Outside the U.S.

10 Apr, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey, Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix subscribers on Facebook can now voluntarily share their rental data and content ratings in Canada, Latin America, the United Kingdom and Ireland – but not in the United States, the company disclosed in a blog.

The sharing of personal information – a cornerstone of social media – has sparked concern among privacy groups and lawmakers domestically.

“If you’re a member in Canada, Latin America, the U.K. or Ireland, we have created more opportunities to share TV shows and movies in the connected world and for you to discover more great stuff to watch through your friends,” wrote Chris Jaffe, director of product innovation at Netflix, in the April 9 post outlining upgrades to the service’s Xbox 360 app.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has sought to change provisions of the Video Privacy Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1988, a move that has seen the streaming pioneer up expenditures on lobbying and most recently form a political action committee (PAC).

Specifically, the VPPA precludes the wrongful release of video tape rentals and sales of movies, music and video games. The legislation came about when U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental history was made public without his consent.

In 2008, a class action lawsuit against Blockbuster was filed over the release of customer rental and sales records to Facebook through the controversial Facebook Beacon program. The lawsuit alleged the release of the records was a violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act. Facebook subsequently shuttered Beacon.

In 2009, a lawsuit was filed against Netflix over its release of data sets for the Netflix Prize, alleging that the company's release of the information constituted a violation of the VPPA. The Netflix Prize was a $1 million award given to a winning team of computer scientist that successfully increased Netflix’s recommendation software by more than 10%.

Separately, Netflix upgraded user functions for the Xbox 360 app. Upgrades include the skip forward/skip/zoom functions. The enhancements also include better color contrasts.

The Xbox 360, of course, helped jumpstart Netflix streaming when it was first offered by Microsoft’s gaming system in June 2008. In fact, availability of Netflix streaming resulted in the addition of a then-unprecedented 1 million subscribers in just 30 days for the Los Gatos, Calif.-based rental service.

Hastings is a member Microsoft’s board.

In other news, Netflix announced it has signed a multiyear deal with Hasbro to bring 10 series to its instant streaming lineup.

“Transformers Prime,” “My Little Pony,” “Pound Puppies,” “G.I. Joe: Renegades” and “The Adventures of Chuck & Friends” are available now, while “JEM & The Holograms,” “Transformers: Generation 1,” “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero,” “Transformers: Beast Wars” and “Transformers: Rescue Bots” will debut on Netflix later this year.

“We are very excited to be working with Hasbro Studios,” said Cindy Holland, VP of content acquisition at Netflix. “This deal allows us to offer even more great kids’ programming to our members, both adults and kids alike, including new seasons of ‘My Little Pony,’ ‘Transformers Prime’ and ‘Pound Puppies’ after the season finale airs on The Hub.”

The Hasbro content will be included in the Netflix “Just For Kids” section, which is geared toward children under the age of 12.

“We are pleased that consumers will now be able to watch our award-winning programming on Netflix, the leading Internet subscription service,” said Hasbro Studios president Stephen Davis. “We are making our content easy to access, anytime, anywhere and on all platforms where audiences are consuming content and this is a big step forward with our all screen strategy.”

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