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Netflix, Facebook And The Law

Publication Date: 
July 27, 2011
American Public Media Marketplace
Steve Henn

Ryan Calo, CIS Director of Privacy and Robotics, is quoted in this Marketplace article on the Video Privacy Protection Act and its impact on the Facebook/Netflix deal.

Netflix says it will soon start letting users share what movies they watch with all their Facebook friends. For now at least, that service will only be available in Canada and Latin America -- not in the U.S. The reason: a 23-year-old law called the Video Privacy Protection Act.

Debra Aho Williamson from eMarketer says social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are already transforming how many of us watch television. She points out that this year, millions watched the royal wedding on the tube while simultaneously talking on Twitter and Facebook about all those ridiculous hats.

Listen to the audio with M. Ryan Calo commenting on Marketplace Radio


Ryan Calo runs the Consumer Privacy Project at Stanford University Law School. He calls the Video Privacy Protection Act an "accident of history." It was passed shortly after a movie rental store in Washington D.C. leaked the video rental records of former Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork. Congress was outraged, so today, video rental records are afforded greater legal protections than lots of other information companies collect about you.

Calo says while he thinks that the VPPA needs to be updated for the Internet age, scrapping the law entirely would be a huge mistake. Instead, he says, it's a wonderful model of how law can put consumers in control of their own personal information.