Monday, September 26, 2011

Netflix Hates Privacy?

There’s been a lot of news about how Netflix wants to fight an arcane video law, passed almost 25 years ago, to enable the future of movie streaming. Hulu wants to do the same thing, with their new video campaign, “This is my favorite part…” I like the Hulu commercials, but I’m not convinced that I want people to automatically know I’m watching reruns of Cashmere Mafia. It’s my wife, I swear.

Facebook has already been sued for sharing Blockbuster rental information, according to Wired.

Intro to the Video Privacy Protection Act

I think all the best consumer protection laws come from when politician’s private lives are exposed to us. This is what happened to get the VPPA enacted. A supreme court nominee’s local video store gave up his viewing history to a reporter. The reporter published the videos in an attempt to embarrass the nominee and derail his nomination, but instead, members of congress all realized that they’d be in deep trouble if clever reporters could all do the same thing to them. Interestingly, the bill was written by Senator Leahy, whose committee is now being asked to amend the bill in favor of Netflix sharing your movie tastes with everyone.

Some have called the VPPA the strongest protection of consumer privacy against data collection. Even stronger than HIPAA? Yes, it is. The reason is that it creates a private right of action for consumers to sue the offending offender directly. HIPAA and all of the new privacy legislation proposed so far in 2011 do not create a private right of action, instead putting the burden on the states Attorneys General.

Draw your own conclusions here, but I’m liking the VPPA a lot more than the new legislation currently being drafted. Giving the power to the consumers is a better solution than assuming an Attorney General will go after infringers. They already have the power to do this under HIPAA, and they haven’t exercised that power very often. Class Actions for privacy issues are also problematic, since courts are more and more reluctant to let them move forward.

Privacy is dead. Long live privacy.

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