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

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?

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • I can understand why Netflix would be pushing for this

    but at the same time I do not want my viewing habits posted on Facebook without any interaction from me - I should be able to select which programs I watch appear in my Facebook news feed... otherwise Netflix will not appear in my news feed.
  • With 3 teens in the house......

    That all use MY netflix account on our Xbox, Android Phones, Laptops etc and the fact that I have a Grand Daughter that I play kids videos/movies for, there is NO WAY I want my Netflix account video activity AUTOMATICALLY posted to Facebook. If that is what Netflix does, i will cancel my subscription right away. There has to be an opt out option or a selective button that is controlled by the account holder.
  • If this happens I'm out!

    I stayed with Netflix during the whole price change/Qwikster scenario. But if they get this through, I will cancel my account without any kind of remorse, as I know many others will. I have a Facebook account, but any site that forces me to have a Facebook account or automatically shares my information is a site I will not visit again or service I will not use.
    • I won't be out for one simple reason

      I am under no obligation to install the Netflix app to my Facebook account. The only thing that gets hurt in this case is it will discourage that app from being installed, which hurts them, not me.
      Michael Kelly
      • Yeah but this is the social enterprise era...

        That simple statement no longer holds water in the new social media enterprise sphere. For example Netflix will begin to "add perks" that will be only available if you have the Nextflix facebook app, similiar to what Spotify did. At some point they will transfer a feature they had before that you use to make it Facebook only, or they will include something that really makes you install their Facebook app and once you do that then you cant opt out of sending your viewing patterns.
  • Just Another Reason

    Why I disabled my FB account. While it is correct that you don't have to install the netflix app at this time, it may one day become mandatory. How? FB would like to be your federated web id, your FB sign on becomes your sign on to everything. That would be amazingly valuable to advertisers as all your online activity would be available in one place to be sliced and diced. TOS for places like Netflix could then require all your activity be logged to the social graph (NF could probably get paid for that).
    • This is why I have multiple FB accounts

      One of them just sits there with no friends or connections, and no real connection to me. I can use it for the increasing number of sites that work better when you link with FB.
  • Exactly how does Netflix plan on posting it to Facebook anyway?

    Last time I checked, you didn't need a Facebook account to log into Netflix, just your email address & password.

    Or is that their future plan, to go the extremely stupid route of requiring a Facebook account in order to use their service?

    If that's the case, then I guess I'll be getting a 2nd Facebook account strictly for Netflix use: one with all privacy settings engaged, where the account name is [b]not[/b] searchable by anyone, and I set up the account with [b]zero[/b] friends.
    • If I must sign-in to Nflix

      using fb, I'm definitely gone!!! They gotta realize the extreme difference between "networking" and entertainment. Next thing you know they will want us all to "pin" our likes - yeah, right. "Pin" seems like nothing but a giant brag board, but OTOH fb isn't much different either.
  • is that their future plan

    Speculation on my part. Certainly there is a push by FB to get sites to use their sign on, same for Google +.
  • Quit Netflix through Facebook?

    I think this is a great idea if you want to chase away more customers. What comes first The Facebook account or the Netflix account?

    I have quit Netflix and I am still alive. Really! When they find a way to get Facebook to buy them (in some fashion) the Netflix owners will be happy. Until that time, they just want to mess with their customers, I mean list of payees.

    If you are a Facebook user, I suggest you inquire if you can post your "Quit Netflix" action on Facebook or ask Netflix if you can cancel through your Facebook account. Dollars to donuts you cannot!
  • So, how do they propose to link

    Nflix users to fb??? I have no fb account, but do have a Nflix subscription - where oh where would they presume to post my "viewing habits"? Along with a million or so others who do not link the two, or not at all (my preference, of course)?
    And, FWIW I cannot register to ANY web site who want me to use my fb ID, & I even wrote to KHOU that they have drastically limited their potential for intelligent comments to their articles by moving over to fb sign-in. Do you think they even care? I thought so.
  • Why pick on video?

    This app for Netflix is the same as ones for Spotify, the Washington Post and probably one CNET will soon introduce if it wants to remain relevant. If it's OK for me to automatically share what music I'm listening to, or what articles I'm reading, why not what videos I've watched? If I work for Apple, wouldn't it be slightly uncomfortable if CNET automatically shared all the articles I read about Sony's products? Yet, no one picks on these other apps, which are already being used by millions of people.

    The Netflix app is entirely optional. Don't use it if you don't want to. Netflix also has implemented title-level controls which give you the option to not share a particular video at the time you select it. The argument that giving a one-time consent for frictionless sharing amounts to a deceptive practice since people will forget that they've consented is rubbish, and could only be advanced by someone with no clue about how Facebook works. Every time you login to Facebook and view your profile, you'll see that you've shared a video. When your friends like or comment on the item, you'll be reminded that you've consented. This is far more obtrusive than any other form of electronic consent that is in force today, including the carefully hidden fine print on this website.
    • Yep

      They are all bad. The tipping point for me was when Amazon offered to let me share my purchases on Facebook. I deleted my facebook account within 5 minutes. Oh, I complained to Amazon too. I was roundly ignored.
    • Video is not music

      Sharing music choices is likely seen as a less intimate activity than sharing which movies you watch, and exactly. where. music listening is sometimes a background activity; whereas watching a movie requires making time off for such an activity and requires full attention
  • It's already bad enough

    It's already that my kids who log in on their Xbox or Wii can see my movie views with no way to opt out. Now they want my whole family and friends to see what I want to watch. Their selection of movies and TV shows is not so great that I'll be sticking with them if that kind of stupidity continues.
  • All this interaction with NO controls

    is why I will never have a FB account, NETFLIX account and if any account that I have with anything else starts interacting with other things then it gets punted too.

    Maybe the CEO's of these companies would think differently if everything they did, viewed (or thought) was spread across the Internet for many to see.
  • Seems Like Netflix WANTS to lose customers

    Perhaps Reed Hastings has lost his mind. Perhaps he's lost all sense of what he's doing. Nevertheless, if he really wants to lose customers, this is the best way so far he can shed me. I absolutely will not remain a Netflix customer if this happens. Not that I have anything to hide, but I'm convinced such trivia about my life is stuff nobody cares about anyway, so why pollute social media with it? Hastings needs to take a vacation -- the longer the better.
    • Not a vacation. Retirement!

      Reed Hasting has become the poster boy for how to take a successful company and totally run it into the ground! He is the epitomy of being out of touch with the rest of the world.
      I can only imagine that he is surrounded by nothing but those who always agree with him.
  • Which to get rid of - Facebook or Netflix?

    I'll probably just cancel my Facebook account if this goes through. I've been one straw on the camel's back away from that for a long time as it is.