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Privacy The Media Entertainment

VHS-Era Privacy Law Still Causing Headaches For Streaming Video 62

Posted by timothy
from the again-with-the-like-button dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "The Video Privacy Protection Act, a 1988 law that made it illegal for a video store to share your rental history, has thrown up roadblocks for modern-day streaming video sites. Last year Congress amended the law to make it possible for you to share your Netflix viewing history with your social media friends, as long as you opt in. But what does "opting in" entail? Hulu is now on the receiving end of a lawsuit over the fact that clicking the Facebook "like" button on a viewing page shares that viewing activity on Facebook."
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VHS-Era Privacy Law Still Causing Headaches For Streaming Video

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:27AM (#46908055)

    This is not a case of an outdated law holding a company from doing a good thing. This is a case of a law being accuratly applied to prevent companies from sharing personal information without any reasonable expectation of assent.

    I mean come on, can anyone say with a straight face that standing in a punlic forumn and saying outloud that you pizza gives pizza hut permission to share your purchase and order history?

    • by apcullen (2504324)
      somebody mod parent to +10
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ColdWetDog (752185)

        Nah, spelling errors would get him a +3 max.
        Grammar error - take it down a notch more.

        This is a tough crowd.

    • by KitFox (712780) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:04AM (#46908253)

      Except that in this case it's more accurately "going to a pizza parlor, finding out that they have a little flag in the pepperoni pizza portion of the menu that you can stick on your lawn that says 'I like peperoni pizza', putting that flag on your lawn, and then suing the pizza company for having the lawn flag available."

      Though in reality, r'ing tfa hints that it may hinge more on the fact that the inclusion of a like button on the page at all automatically shares with Facebook the fact that you were even on the page due to referrer information. The 'Like' button itself is not Hulu sharing the data with Facebook, that's the clicker sharing the data with Facebook.

      • The law requires informed consent. Nothing in any of the described methods even comes close to that. And i did assume this was similar to how facebook uses the like flag on their own site to qualify as consent to share data. If i miss that it was just having the facebook code block on the page then that just make the egregious violation even worse.

        • Except that if you click a Facebook Like on ANY site, you are consenting to that like be made known on Facebook. KitFox was correct: the clicker made the share, not anyone else.
    • by gnupun (752725) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:08AM (#46908269)
      Wish this law would be extended to other products and services like DVD purchases, retail purchases, library check outs, grocery purchases, restaurant orders etc.. This law is only a headache, if you're out to commit a crime (invasion of privacy).
      • In the US your library records are generally confidential and will only be disclosed in response to a lawfully issued subpoena. The American Library Association has promulgated specific privacy guidelines on this issue:

        http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=otherpolicies&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=13084

        These rules were formulated in the 1950s in response to McCarthy era hysteria on "subversive" communist/socialist books. At that time certain governmental agencies were
        • by gnupun (752725) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @09:36PM (#46911011)

          Terrorists have replaced communists. The laws you mention are old. One change enacted by the Patriot act was to track library check outs.

          "The Patriot Act gives federal authorities virtually unchecked authority to search our customers' records and raises concern that government is monitoring what people are reading," said ABFFE President Chris Finan. "

          And this:

          Libraries in Santa Cruz, Calif., posted signs warning patrons that the FBI may access the records of what books they borrow.

          From fox news [foxnews.com]

          The wholesale tracking of all books is suspicious. What business does the govt have knowing who read the latest Dr. Seuss books? The patriot act should have allowed tracking only those books related to terrorism -- weapon making books, books about extreme violence, etc.

          • by Kasar (838340)
            There are many books a government might want their citizens to avoid, such as ones that encourage "to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them".
            Documents like the DoI and books written by like-minded people could give people ideas that could be dangerous to our government.
          • Remember the American Library Association response to that part of the Patriot Act? They strongly recommended that libraries not keep such records. Librarians know who has currently checked out a particular book, and they destroy that information once it's returned.

    • No...this is a case of a blatantly frivolous lawsuit. Because clicking the like button is A) A voluntary action by the user B) Clicking the like button is basically opting in, and C) The user can remove the post

      • by thecatt (1677280)
        Except that isn't what the issue is here. The issue is that Hulu sends the information to Facebook just by loading the like button on the page, regardless if the user ever clicks on it. The linked article gets it wrong, but the article that article links to explains it better.
  • Fubared priorities (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wiredlogic (135348) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:28AM (#46908057)

    So our video viewing preferences are rigidly protected by big government but if we want to peaceably assemble to demonstrate and protest we must be confined to a chain-link fenced "free speech zone" in a parking lot somewhere in an out of the way industrial zone.

    More like some Congressman doesn't want his wife to find out about all the midget porn.

    • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:36AM (#46908117)

      So our video viewing preferences are rigidly protected by big government but if we want to peaceably assemble to demonstrate and protest we must be confined to a chain-link fenced "free speech zone" in a parking lot somewhere in an out of the way industrial zone.

      More like some Congressman doesn't want his wife to find out about all the midget porn.

      Sort of. This is the "Bork Act" so named because when Robert Bork was nominated to SCOTUS his video rental habits were made public; no doubt causing concern amongst our illustrious members of Congress and Senators that theirs would appear in the next attack when they ran for reelection. hence, the concern for protecting our privacy trumpeted the ability of companies to profit off of it.

      • by alostpacket (1972110) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:12AM (#46908301) Homepage

        I always thought it had something to do with the Swedish Chef.

        I wonder what his viewing history would be like.

      • Yep, and for the same reason websites can't publish your buying history of music to anybody but you... I have a lot of "teenage" music in my collection that I purchased while I was a teenager... get that?

      • by redelm (54142)

        On those "free speech zones" -- if there is such a security problem that some people must be isolated, then _everyone_ must be isolated. No "friendlies" on the parade route, "antis" elsewhere -- that is a 14th Amendment violation (Equal Protection) which becomes effectively a 1st Amendment violation by reducing the reach of some speech.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:38AM (#46908129)

      So our video viewing preferences are rigidly protected by big government but if we want to peaceably assemble to demonstrate and protest we must be confined to a chain-link fenced "free speech zone" in a parking lot somewhere in an out of the way industrial zone.

      More like some Congressman doesn't want his wife to find out about all the midget porn.

      TFA: "During debate over his nomination, Bork's video rental history was leaked to the press. His video rental history was unremarkable, and included such harmless titles as A Day at the Races, Ruthless People, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Writer Michael Dolan, who obtained a copy of the hand-written list of rentals, wrote about it for the Washington City Paper. Dolan justified accessing the list on the ground that Bork himself had stated that Americans only had such privacy rights as afforded them by direct legislation. The incident led to the enactment of the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act."

      I used to think the real moral of the story was that if we want to have privacy, we have to demonstrate that the same technologies that violate our privacy can also have negative political consequences for them.

      Consider this: In 1988, the fact that a Supreme Court Justice Nominee's completely boring video rental list -- and what it implied for the political futures of Congressmen and Senators whose video rental history was, shall we say, not so boring -- absolutely terrified politicians, because politicians could actually lose their seats over scandals.

      Today, when we find out that an anti-gay politician is toe-tapping in a bathroom stall or sexting his underage Congressional pages or is otherwise compromised, we shrug it off and laugh for a day, then vote some other hypocrite into office, but such scandals are no longer national news.

      The only thing that would do it would be a data dump of everything NSA has on sitting Congresspersons. And now I realize that things that would be hit those selectors are probably the only things pre-emptively excluded from the database, because the existance of such records are the only thing that could shut the programme down.

      The real surprise of 1988 was that the Bork controversy happened so fast that they passed a law that protected everyone, not just themselves. They haven't made that mistake since.

  • by redelm (54142) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:31AM (#46908081) Homepage

    I, for one, dislike my history being sold to other merchants. Even if it means I pay more for a service, privacy has value. I slways opt-out, but this sort of marketing is deeply invasive and subject to NSA-esque abuse in targetted cases.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:35AM (#46908101)

    Imagine a world where privacy is the default setting. Truly mind blowing.

    • by Ardyvee (2447206)

      There is default privacy, which I like, and then there is clicking facebook's like and then complaining that doing so shared that you viewed a movie...

    • by kimvette (919543)

      On the other hand, social networks are where you go to specifically share info, so the onus is on you to decide what needs to be private. Facebook, Google+, Digg, Reddit, etc. allow for integration so you can share info from other sites on your social network of choice. Why take an active step to share info and then complain when that info is made public? It's moronic at best. I hope Hulu countersues and wins.

  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:43AM (#46908153)
    After I RTFA, it appears the author's stance is "you gave Hulu permission by clicking Like, after all Like is supposed to let you tell people what you like. Thus, HULU should not be held responsible under the law for sharing your viewing history." My issue with that is, if I understand what HULU did, is clicking Like shares anything you watched and what you are watching, not just the original video, essentially making your history available without your consent. That is exactly what the law is designed to prevent. I find it a big jump from saying "I Like "Allo Allo S1E4" and taking that is "I consent to let you share my entire viewing history."
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @10:44AM (#46908159) Journal
    If at all there is something to complain about, it is the fact that we did not use the law to extend VHS rentals to web browsing history and stop sites from storing, selling and buying the browsing history of the visitors. Had we extended this law earlier to logically include all the thing that ought to be private and unstorable by thirdparties and service providers, the world might be a better place today.
  • by PvtVoid (1252388)
    What the hell do you expect to happen when you click "like" on something? You are intentionally making your opinion public. That's the entire point of a "like" button.
    • Is it actually about the act of clicking, or the fact that typically the Like button is included by means of a javascript snippet which allows Facebook to see you visited that page without any interaction with the button.

      Of course, if thats the case, then video services using Google Analytics, ad networks etc are all on the same hook.

      But then all of these things require the users browser to download the thing that is giving the information away...

    • No. Originally the Netflix' intent of a "like" button was that they could assess the sort of movies you like and provide better recommendations.

      Like == sharing is a new concept in world of video rentals. I absolutely positively do not want the likes and positive reviews I've written on my account at Neflix or Imdb to be associated with the real me, used to catalog me and sold to possibly hostile third parties.

      The original article sounds like an industry shill trying to spin a good, useful law as something t

      • by Xtifr (1323)

        A Facebook "like" button is different than a local-to-the-site "like" button. It only works if you have a FB account, and uses the clearly recognizable FB logo. Anyone who uses FB recognizes the button, and expects it to work the same on all sorts of different sites.

        The apparent problem here (according to what I've heard) is that the FB "like" button on Hulu didn't just share your like of the movie with your FB friends; it shared your entire viewing history! If that's actually true, then I definitely have t

  • by kimvette (919543) on Saturday May 03, 2014 @11:32AM (#46908397) Homepage Journal

    > Hulu is now on the receiving end of a lawsuit over the fact that clicking the Facebook "like" button on a viewing page shares that viewing activity on Facebook."

    Um, that's exactly what the "Like" button is for. I hope Hulu countersues over this stupidity and wins.

    • by Sabriel (134364)

      More accurately, replace 'clicking the Facebook "like" button' with 'having the Facebook "like" button'.

      The javascript that displays the "like" button is on Facebook's servers, i.e. Facebook gets told which pages you visit on Hulu and could log that to assemble your Hulu browsing history. Do you trust Facebook not to do that?

      For that matter, if I was an unscrupulous Three Letter Agency, I'd encourage "like" buttons everywhere and ensure I had a way to access Facebook's traffic. Who needs to tap the entire i

  • What kind of idiot thinks clicking the Facebook like button DOESN'T tell your friends you liked something?

    • What kind of idiot thinks clicking the Facebook like button DOESN'T tell your friends you liked something?

      It's not a matter of being an 'idiot' to believe that there is a difference between sharing that you liked a single, particular film, and having one's entire viewing history available for public view. It is entirely reasonable to assume that there are two separate actions required to share the different sets of data.

    • Well, yes, but that depends on your interpretation of what it means to "Like" something online.
  • That's a good law. We need more of those.

    • by mpe (36238)
      That's a good law. We need more of those.

      Far more general data protection laws are commonplace. The USA is unusal in not having such laws.
      How does Hulu manage in Canada? Or Netflix in Canada and the EU?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I guess when the repeated "government doesn't understand technology" and "privacy protections are being eroded" stances collide on Slashdot, the former wins? This is a rare instances where the consumer is being protected. And it isn't hobbling streaming video one bit. It is only hobbling Hulu's ability to trick consumers into having their viewing history exposed to third parties in unexpected ways.

    • I agree that this is one of those rare instances where the consumer is being protected. But lets not fool ourselves, this law is not there to protect consumers as much as its there to protect the ruling elite from having their tastes in pornography becoming public knowledge.

  • That's why I'm using my Beta to stream movies...

  • There is no link between clicking a like button and having actually rented it, unless they've restricted like buttons to customers who have rented the movie.
    Click a like button is:
    a) Not Hulu sharing anything, it's Facebook doing the sharing. and
    b) Not your rental history anyway.

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