Netflix Planning Social Features For 2013 Now That Legal Roadblock Is Almost Cleared

These days you can connect just about anything you do on the Internet to various social networks, namely Facebook, but until just recently Netflix was left out of that oversharing club. Starting in 2013, however, Netflix is planning on rolling out some new social features now that a legal obstacle is one signature away from being overcome. Congress just passed a bill that removes restrictions on companies from sharing customer video rental history, and it just needs President Obama’s autograph.

“We are pleased that the Senate moved so quickly after the House,” a Netflix spokesperson told Talking Points Memo in a statement. “We plan to introduce social features for our US members in 2013, after the president signs it.”

Netflix users in other parts of the Americas had the ability to link their accounts to Facebook and be like, “Hey, friends, I just watched Overboard for the wazillionth time!” but because of the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act, companies like Netflix couldn’t share customers’ “personally identifiable information.” That includes rental histories, because apparently your love of ’80s Goldie Hawn movies marks you out quite distinctly.

The law is changing due to an amendment laid out in the bill, which will allow customers to give Netflix and other services permission to share such information via social media. Once you give your express permission, you can also withdraw it at any time for every video or on an individual basis.

Netflix isn’t the only one likely to be pleased by the amendment — TPM notes that Hulu has had social integration since 2011 but has been sued under the old VPAA as a result.

Netflix could use a bit of good news lately, after its cloud server problem mucked up the viewing plans of many of its customers on Christmas Eve, but others aren’t so pleased about the amendment because of a piece of language that was taken out, notes Buzzfeed.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had added language that would force law enforcement to obtain warrants to snoop on email, instead of just issuing subpoenas for messages that have been stored for more than 180 days by a third party. That part of the bill was removed before the vote passed, something the American Civil Liberties Union disapproves of.

“If Netflix is going to get an update to the privacy law, we think the American people should get an update to the privacy law,” says counsel for the ACLU.

Netflix ‘Social Features’ Coming In 2013, Once President Signs Bill [Talking Points Memo]
Senate OKs Warrantless Email Snooping [Buzzfeed]