Legislation would Allow Netflix to Reveal Your Viewing Habits on Facebook

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Facebook's concept of "frictionless sharing," or the automatic broadcast of online activities after a one-time blanket consent, is closer to reality, at least on Netflix's turf.

The House in the U.S. Congress has passed a bill to amend 1988's Video Privacy Protection Act (PDF), which, as now written, requires "video tape service providers" to obtain written consent before sharing a customer's information. If the revision is approved, friend feeds could be stuffed with auto-shared Netflix viewing habits, much like they're currently swamped with tidbits from your Spotify-listening friends, as described in a New York Times report. But it also means that streaming media with friends over Facebook is a near-future possibility.

Since there already are dozens of ways to share movie tastes on Facebook -- through likes, third-party apps, or link-sharing -- adding Netflix and other streaming video providers to the seamless social graph that Mark Zuckerberg outlined at the last Facebook developer's conference just makes sense. Plus, now that Microsoft has removed Netflix's Party Mode from the Xbox 360, a service that allowed Xbox LIVE members to watch Netflix streams with online friends, a Facebook-integrated video sharing service has a sweet empty spot to fill.

Netflix explains its campaign for this legislation as removing a barrier to offering a feature that lets Facebook friends share more easily.

Privacy advocates such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center are balking at the proposed changes to the Video Privacy Protection Act because of the impact the revision would have on the overall legal concept of "meaningful consent." But in the short term, we were probably going to share that information anyway -- because who doesn't want to know that I stopped "They Live" through to watch countless episodes of "Archer"?

House Resolution 2471 has been sent to the Senate and referred to the judiciary committee. Hearings may occur early in 2012.

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