Netflix still wants to share all of your viewing activity on Facebook

Summary:Netflix wants the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act amended so it can share its subscribers' viewing choices via Facebook, but it wants to share all of those choices, not just ones that the subscriber wants to share.

Facebook users know that pretty much everything they do on the Internet can be shared on the social network, though there is one curious exception. Ever notice someone's Netflix viewing history in your news feed? It's not there, for reasons that might not be obvious to the average user.

As you might guess, it's not Netflix that's keeping that information out of the "social graph." Instead, it's a 1988 law that protects your video renting history from being shared without a criminal warrant. A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article details how Netflix is working to update that law to allow it to share your viewing history on Facebook.

Netflix has already struck a deal with Facebook to let it automatically share each time you watch a video through its service -- once new legislation is enacted. Any and all videos. While that makes sense for Netflix's purposes, it's something many subscribers would object to, not wanting their viewing choices broadcast to all their contacts. (Your Facebook friends may not be interested in knowing your kids are constantly watching Barney videos, and you may not be thrilled to share your adult viewing habits with the world.)

As Netflix battles in Congress, it's not surprisingly run into resistance over its all-or-nothing sharing approach. Comedian-turned-Senator Al Franken, for example, pointed out the extremely obvious solution of letting the subscriber decide which title he or she would want to share on Facebook, taking the matter out of Netflix's hands. He summed up the issue nicely:

“It’s a really good thing that people can easily tell their video company, ‘Sure, go ahead and tell people I watched The Godfather, but no, don’t tell them I watched Yoga for Health: Depression & Gastro-Intestinal Disorders.’?”

It's unclear why Netflix supports an amendment to the Video Privacy Protection Act that doesn't provide this level of consumer choice baked in. Given the PR disaster it suffered last year over its pricing changes, the company should probably think twice about such a strategy, especially if it really wants users to share their viewing habits with any sense of enthusiasm. I know I would have no interest in adding a Netflix app to my Facebook account if I couldn't choose which videos I could share. Would you?

Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Sean Portnoy started his tech writing career at ZDNet nearly a decade ago. He then spent several years as an editor at Computer Shopper magazine, most recently serving as online executive editor. He received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the University of Southern California.

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