Woman Sues Blockbuster For Telling All Her Facebook Friends What She Was Renting

Facebook’s Beacon has finally resulted in a lawsuit. A Texas woman has sued Blockbuster for participating in Beacon, claiming that “Blockbuster violated the federal Videotape Privacy Protection Act by sharing information about her movie rentals and sales with Facebook without first obtaining her written consent,” says MediaPost.

She’s seeking class action status, with $2,500 for each violation of the statute. MediaPost says the law was passed in 1988 when a newspaper obtained the rental history of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.

What about you? Did Facebook tell all your friends that you rented Basic Instinct 2… again?

Blockbuster Sued For Participating In Facebook Beacon [MediaPost]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mozoltov, motherfucker says:

    So what, did she have an application on there that reported it? Cause everytimt i add an app, it asks you if you want information publicly available or something like that.

  2. They’d be telling all my friends that I like movies aimed at the tween set, which would be totally embarassing to have anybody kn– oh. whoops. crap.

  3. rmz says:

    This is the first I’ve heard about this “feature” but it sounds like a horrible idea. Make it opt-in, at least, and not active without peoples’ knowledge or permission.

  4. IphtashuFitz says:

    Glad I don’t use Blockbuster. Glad I don’t use Facebook.

  5. Mozoltov, motherfucker says:

    Reading comprehension is fun. So she is suing, even though she will never be identified. Fuck people are stupid/greedy.

  6. nick_r says:

    So… she fights to punish Blockbuster for revealing her rentals, and now the entire Internet knows her name and that she rented embarrassing movies.

  7. BigElectricCat says:



  8. Coder4Life says:

    If anyone has used facebook you would know how big of an issue this was?

    Remember when they found Mark’s confidential paperwork online and he wanted to be left alone and then thye posted it on here…

    Fortunately the becaon is no longer part of facebook.

  9. Snowblind says:

    What the heck is embarassing at blockbuster?


  10. wickedpixel says:

    @cubensis: apparently you missed the whole facebook beacon hullabaloo. it was a “feature” that reported your activities from partner websites and broadcast them to all your facebook buddies. users were initially not given the option of opting out. it resulted in all kinds of shenanigans like ruining christmas. After much complaint, users can now opt out.

  11. ColdBloodedBMC says:

    Considering it’s Blockbuster, I don’t see the big deal. It’s not like they carry hardcore, hell they don’t even carry softcore porn, or any cult movies. All they have are normal movies that have been in the theater (except Boondock Saints). “OMG, someone knows I rented Gone Baby Gone…”

  12. eightfifteen says:

    So how many celebrities that have facebook accounts can we track rental histories on?

  13. chelotoyou says:

    What if she’s a closeted gay and had rented something telling like a combo of Gia and The Ten Rules? Can you imagine being out by Blockbuster? I’d sue.

  14. 44 in a Row says:

    The other problem was that even if you opted out, apparently for a while Blockbuster was still sending the information to Facebook, it just didn’t get published.

    My non-lawyer guess is that this will get tossed, because the act specifically allows disclosures “incident to the ordinary course of business of the video tape service provider”. I’m pretty sure that if Facebook and Blockbuster signed a marketing agreement, then they could argue that the disclosures fall under that allowance.

  15. BigBoat says:

    She doesn’t really mind her privacy being lost, she just wants to get paid for it. Argue the merits of that one, not the “now her shame is public to the world” stuff.

  16. Honestly I always found Social Engineering er … networking sites just a little creepy.

    Not saying a person can’t form meaningful friendships out there in the Interweb, but these sites seem a little too keen to throw their users under a bus in an effort to make a buck.

    Never joined one, and never will.

  17. oakie says:

    @Snowblind: “What the heck is embarassing at blockbuster?

    Roadhouse? “

    “being called a cocksucker isnt personal?”

  18. nequam says:

    @BigBoat: The point of the statute is that it presumes harm — hence the $2500 liquidated damage provision. Another way of looking at it is that violating the statute is, in and of itself, an invasion of privacy.

    Don’t blame the consumer, don’t blame the courts. This was Congress’s decision.

  19. Hoss says:

    For those that are annoyed with the law suit, read the article — Zuckerberg mans up admitting mistakes.

  20. deedrit says:

    So what if I checked out “Ghost” 9 times!

  21. FMulder says:

    You shouldn’t have anybody as a facebook friend if you don’t want them to know what you rent — your friends should already know if you have bad or porn-y movie tastes, or at least you should be able to ‘yeah, okay I rented it’ and move on.

    I joined facebook at the prodding of some younger cousins, and have only a handful of ‘friends’ on a page that I visit every few weeks, if that.

    And yes, I know of one porn-y movie rentable at Blockbuster, that seems to have slipped by the censors there. Think foreign, horror, (esp. vampire)….

  22. SuffolkHouse says:

    Oh, but where are the obligatory whiners who will cry “There are too many lawsuits – oh the poor, poor corporations!”

  23. Mr. Gunn says:

    44 in a Row: Facebook is still being sent everyone’s information, they’re just not displaying it for the people who opt-out (or don’t have Facebook accounts).

    Even the people who opt-in have to opt-in to the whole program, but can’t control which companies are included.

    The whole thing is just such a stunning violation of privacy it’s unbelievable, and they’re getting away with it because people are still saying, “So what if somebody knows I bought KY and latex boots and rope yesterday?”

    They just don’t get it. You are what you buy.

  24. bohemian says:

    Imagine the horror if all your coworkers found out you rented Glitter and Gigli.

  25. NeoteriX says:

    This *HAD* to be opt in. The plaintiff likely approved of the very thing she’s suing over.

  26. Sanveann says:

    @NeoteriX: Did you read the article? It very clearly stated that Beacon was NOT opt-in. Here’s another article about it: [www.pcworld.com]

    Honestly, does anybody else get tired of people saying, “Gosh, that COULDN’T be true! Who would do something like that?” Well, LOTS of things sound incredibly crappy, but people still do them. Just spend five minutes at this site.

  27. MMD says:

    Blockbuster is providing information that Facebook can use for marketing/advertising purposes – in other words, to turn a profit. It’s only fair that the consumer gets a cut.

  28. NeoteriX says:


    Yeah, I read the article:

    “Four weeks after the program launched, Facebook revised it to require users’ opt-in consent before sharing information with other members.”

  29. 44 in a Row says:

    “Four weeks after the program launched, Facebook revised it to require users’ opt-in consent before sharing information with other members.”

    Right, but there are two problems. The first problem is the four weeks where it wasn’t opt-in. The second problem is that even though sharing the info with other Facebook users is opt-in now, reports are that sharing between Blockbuster and Facebook happens no matter what.

  30. lesbiansayswhat says:

    I’m just waiting for the day Facebook is held liable for any of the insanity.

  31. lesbiansayswhat says:

    @NeoteriX: @44 in a Row: Not to mention that Facebook makes it incredibly difficult to adjust privacy settings in the first place. I had to dig down deep to find where to opt-out of Beacon, an application I did not add on my own, before they finally half woke up and made it opt-in..which took them a long time.

    The fact that they still collect our consumer data is amazing. Not even the email lists I’m on sell my information anymore..and they make a point of saying so. Zuckerberg has got to be one greedy asshole to use Facebook as a consumerbook. Facebook definitely states it does not sell your Facebook information..now you know how they get around that to make the millions.

  32. Lazlo Nibble says:

    @44 in a Row: That relies on finding a federal court judge who thinks a reasonable person should assume that selling peoples’ rental history to social-networking sites is the “ordinary course of business of the video tape service provider”.

    Which calls to mind:

  33. rellog says:

    I find it amusing that repukes were so outraged at Bork’s rental history being revealed that they actually concocted this law… morons! And for the record, I WANT to know what crap Supreme Court nominees do in their spare time. The do after all hold one of the most powerful positions in the country…

  34. Bladefist says:

    i saw this on my facebook profile, and I knew this was coming. I was a bit pissed as well. I left blockbuster though

  35. defiant1 says:

    People still rent movies?

  36. Darkwish says:

    While I don’t care if any of my friends find out what I rent or watch (it would be fun watching their heads explode), I do not want that information shared with other companies without my permission. I consider it an invasion of privacy and I’m sick to death of all this targeted marketing that companies are doing.

  37. wring says:

    lol @ using cockbuster

  38. PurpleMonkey says:

    My friends knowing what I rent does not bother me in the least. However, I don’t want other companies to know just so they can market to me, which is making me consider turning the beacon off.

  39. billy2515 says:

    OK, so for a while at least there was no way to opt out. How did blockbuster know she had a facebook account and what her screen name was???

  40. ByeBye says:

    I’m surprised that Netflix hasn’t done this yet — oh wait.

  41. jaewon223 says:

    adblock beacon :)

  42. Katorok says:

    The beacon really pissed me off, I haven’t used facebook ever since, so I don’t know if they removed it.. But, it would be annoying for it to start logging things I did without my permission..

  43. NinjaMarion says:

    @Sanveann: I know for a fact the first time I added something from Blockbuster and Gamefly , it popped up a little notification letting me know it was gonna display it and giving me the option to have it not. Not technically “Opt in,” but they give you the option to opt out and have it not shown as soon as it tries it.

  44. aahpandasrun says:

    Every time a movie is added to the Blockbuster Online queue, there is a large popup in the bottom left corner of the screen that says the information is being added to Facebook. There is a button on that popup that allows you to block the information, and there are several ways on Facebook itself that allow you to block this information.

    They should probably change this to opt-in, but it’s so innocent and completely controllable. This is just ridiculous.

  45. aphexbr says:

    @TakingItSeriously: Why is it that whenever Facebook comes up on one of these articles, there’s always someone making jokes like this?

    I use Facebook. I use it to keep in touch with real-life friends I’ve met from 26 countries over the last 20 years. I’ve used it to regain meaningful relationship with old schoolfriends I lost contact with 15 years ago, many of whom now live in different countries from me and would never had heard from again had it not been for Facebook. Last night I went to see one of these friends play with her band, who I wouldn’t have known were in town if it wasn’t for her Facebook announcement.

    How does that fit in with your stupid assumptions.. erm I mean theory?

    As for the Blockbuster issue, I don’t use the service but if I’m not wrong, wouldn’t you have to a) sign up for both services and b) link them somehow? I have many 3rd party sites like last.fm and Flixster linked to my account and Facebook didn’t know they were linked until I told it there was a link.

  46. mike says:

    When will people learn?! If you put it on the interwebs, it’s public information! (most of the time, anyway)

    In any event, facebook has turned from a cool web application to something that resembles myspace intermixed with livejournal with a hint of flickr. I still use facebook, but I hate all the ads.

    Beacon was their worst mistake. It should have been “opt-in” from the start. Not that many people would sign up for it…

  47. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Honestly, does anybody else get tired of people saying, “Gosh, that COULDN’T be true! Who would do something like that?”

    @Sanveann: Yes, especially when all parties in the article agree that it is true. It has become one of the most annoying comments.

    @billy2515: I one of the earlier Beacon posts explained how that works.

  48. Kajj says:

    @sohmc: But she isn’t suing them because SHE put her rental history online. When you rent something at a store, that’s not public information.

  49. Nakko says:

    I didn’t even know there was a “federal Videotape Privacy Protection Act”!!

  50. solange305 says:

    This is totally true. Not only was my facebook broadcasting my rentals fro BB, but also from Gamefly. And no, there was no Opt-in option. I dont know how the hell it links them either, but it DOES. I saw it for myself

  51. lesbiansayswhat says:

    @aphexbr: That is where the actual complaints come from. No one signed up for something and then turned around and complained about it. You didn’t have to do anything for your purchases to be published as a Facebook notification to everyone linked to you. I don’t know how it worked but some companies knew you had a Facebook profile (maybe an automatic search based on your email?) and had a direct connection to it to create a newsfeed. In the very early stages it didn’t notify me it would be posting things to my profile. I found out when I happened to look at my own profile later. It’s just unnecessary and disrespectful..even for a social networking site.

  52. aphexbr says:

    @lesbiansayswhat: Aha. OK, that makes sense now. I’d also guess it’s the email address that’s being used to match the accounts and it is definitely a shady tactic.

  53. kshahbaz28 says:

    I don’t think it was linked to an email address. My boyfriend and I have a blockbuster account, registered to his personal email (not mine), and one day I was adding movies to our cue from my work computer, and the rental history posted to MY facebook account–not his. I loathe what facebook has become.