Oversharing

Netflix Wants to Change Video Privacy Laws, So Friends Can See What You Watched

screen shot 2011 12 11 at 10 44 12 pm Netflix Wants to Change Video Privacy Laws, So Friends Can See What You Watched

How did Blue Velvet get you to a cartoon, exactly?

As if waking up to an email asking, “How Was the Picture Quality of TRON: Legacy” wasn’t enough of a reminder of your low-brow late night streaming habits, Netflix now is exploring out a new way to expose what you’re actually watching when you pretended to be deeply engrossed in Triage: Dr. James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma.

The New York Times reports that Netflix is backing a bill in Congress that aims to alter the Video Privacy Protection Act. That law, enacted back in 1988, requires video services companies to get written consent from a customer before disclosing information like rental history. The new bill, however, would let consumers give a “one-time blanket consent online” to let a company continuously share what they watched on Facebook, for example.

Supporters, like Netflix, a company that benefits from getting its brand in your News Feed or Twitter stream, argue that if Spotify can let people know what songs you’re listening to, they should be able to do the same with video.

Opponents, on the other hand, claim that the bill, which was passed by the House last week, vastly undermines a person’s ability to determine case by case what they want to share and with whom–and that video preferences tend to be more personal and revealing. (After all, the original act was put in place after a local video rental store gave a D.C. newspaper the list of movies rented by Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork.)

“Do you want your conservative friends to know that you watched a hyperviolent “Saw” movie or movies about the gay experience like ‘Brokeback Mountain’?” says Kevin Bankston, a senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil rights group in San Francisco. “Do you want your liberal friends to know you watch an enormous amount of religious movies?”

Yeah, religious movies, we’re sure that’s what everyone’s worried about sharing.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com