Netflix Pays Out $9M To Settle Privacy Violation Suit

A 1988 law continues to be the “buffering” in Netflix’s success stream. The Video Privacy Protection Act, which forbids movie rental companies from sharing customers’ rental history, is not only stopping Netflix from integrating movie-streaming with Facebook in the U.S., but has cost the company $9 million to settle a class-action lawsuit.

The AP reports a pair of Virginians accused Netflix of violating the law by keeping lists of movies former customers rented as long as two years after they canceled. According to the suit, Netflix should have removed identifying information from the logs sooner.

Netflix, which is putting pressure on lawmakers to change the law, paid out $9 million to settle the complaint while admitting no wrongdoing.

If nothing else, this settlement proves that the 1988 law has enough teeth to stand up to some degree in court. Unless the law changes, the U.S. probably won’t join the list of more than 47 countries in which a Netflix app is on Facebook.

Netflix Class Action Settlement: Service Pays $9 Million After Allegations Of Privacy Violations [AP via Huffington Post]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Phloyd says:

    “…the ‘buffering’ in Netflix’s success stream…”

  2. Cat says:

    Why would anyone want Netflix to share with the world that you watched Gigli last weekend?

  3. Coles_Law says:

    This is a bit nitpicky, but the law is from 1988, not 1998. I only point it out as the law was written pre-internet times.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      And during the pre anonymous internet porn era, the real reason why the law was originally passed. In those days, there was really no reason to keep rental histories around.

    • Rebecca K-S says:

      I was gonna say, I thought it was the 80s.

  4. iamlost26 says:

    This is kind of fitting, seeing as how Netflix has made it abundantly clear that they’ll never allow you to delete your rental or instant watching history.

    • JennQPublic says:

      I really don’t like that, and now I see why they do it. Dammit! I love my Netflix, but knowing they are pushing to have the ability to share what I watch with others really creeps me out.

      Everything else they’ve done, I’ve been on their side for. But this… I think I just shifted from Netflix fan to mere Netflix customer. :-/

  5. PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

    That reminds me…I think I still have some class action paperwork for the whole Netflix versus Wal-Mart sitting at home…

    • elangomatt says:

      Um, you better fill it out online or something when you get home, a quick google search shows that today is the deadline to file a claim.

  6. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    I really don’t understand why Netflix wants to share information via Facebook. It’s another reason to stay the hell away from Facebook.

    • nicless says:

      For the same reason sites like Get Glue and Foursquare are popular. People like to tell others what they are doing. I’m glad you have so many reasons to stay away from Facebook…

    • oblivious87 says:

      Its simple really, depending on the level of access required by Netflix, Netflix can use you to directly market to your friends, family and co-workers.

      “Bill Smith just Streamed Instantly {Movie Here} on Netflix”. My friends who have similar movie tastes to me based on our inputs on Facebook, along with any of my friends and family who have subscribed to my feed will have this show up on their own NewsFeed.

      Most of the people who read this won’t care, but someone might and end up signing up for Netflix. Thus by me bragging to the world that I sit at home and watch movies all day, they got a free referral with an extremely minimal amount of effort to integrate their API with Facebooks API.

    • scoosdad says:

      I know. Amazon is doing the same thing now. When you check out, there’s a box to click if you want to tell the world (well, the world on Facebook) what you just bought. No thanks, none of anybody’s business.

  7. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    The dog looks about as confused as I do…

    Oh no, not about the lawsuit. About why Netflix would want to willingly associate itself with Facebook.

  8. rpm773 says:

    In a world of tweets and automatic status updates, that 1998 law seems rather quaint and archaic.

  9. NeverLetMeDown says:

    I just don’t get the whole “wow, I can post that to Facebook/Twitter” thing. I ordered food from Seamlessweb last night. It offered me to opportunity to post that to Facebook. Maybe I’m just getting old, but (a) why would I want to do that, and (b) why would any of my Facebook friends care that I did?

    • webweazel says:

      It probably is being old. I’m the same way. The last thing I posted to Facebook was about an event happening in town back in October. I look through the feed from my friends, and most of it is a bunch of crap, but there is some good stuff sprinkled in. The problem is, you have to dig through the crap to find the good stuff. I guess it’s like old age ADD or something, I’m just not that interested in digging through the crap any more.
      I mean, I really don’t give a rat’s ass what someone is having for lunch today, or where they bought their shoes, or what movie they watched last weekend. I really don’t.
      Oh, and get off my lawn?

    • Cat says:

      Because you’re not a clueless teen who feels the need to share every intimate detail of their life, not realizing that their public indiscretions will haunt them for the rest of their lives…

      The internet doesn’t forget.

    • thewatchdog says:

      Posting everything to FB is a win-win for everyone! You get to feel like people actually care about the inane stuff you do all day, and the company gets to turn you into their very own unpaid shill. Don’t you know that social media gives marketing people a huge boner, just like “grassroots” and “word of mouth”? Its a whole new shifting paradigm!

  10. papastevez says:

    Why do we NEED a netflix on facebook? Am I the only one that doesnt feel like we’re missing out? I have a netflix on netflix, ps3, xbox, phone, tablet, tv…. there is nothing that interests me about watching on FB.

    • SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

      It’s less about your needs, than it is about Netflix wanting access to your friend list so they can market to them. I agree I’ve got Netflix through Roku, CPU, & PS3 I don’t need/want it on FB.

      • Not Given says:

        My friends list isn’t (wasn’t?) available to my friends. Does this mean I need to go and change my privacy settings again? I’ve been on Google+ every day but I haven’t looked at Facebook in a month.

  11. Sanspants says:

    While I don’t want a Netflix app that acts like the Spotify updates on Facebook, I really liked the friend list on the Netflix website. I want to see my friends’ queues to see if I missed something I’d want to watch.

    • OutPastPluto says:

      You’re both on Facebook together. Perhaps you could actually “talk” about it or do whatever the modern equivalent is. It simply does not need to be automated in a manner that would enable other people to abuse your personal data.

      Chatter less. Say more.

  12. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I have Netflix and I have Facebook but I don’t use any apps on anything. Why the hell would I want to see someone’s rental history? If I know them and they saw a movie they think I would like, they’ll tell me anyway.

  13. dush says:

    Why is the info kept at all? If someone cancels their history should be deleted.