Netflix Attack On Consumer Privacy Print
Written by Viara Zaprianova-Marshall   
Wednesday, 28 September 2011 22:29


Netflix attack on Privacy Laws continue.


December last year Netflix had to cancel a sequel to a $1 million movie-recommendation contest, avoiding a potential courtroom drama over the privacy rights of its subscribers.

The company settled a lawsuit alleging Netflix's plans to release millions of movie-rental records that could have illegally exposed sensitive information about its subscribers' tastes and lifestyles.

The Federal Trade Commission also had raised questions about Netflix ability to protect customers' privacy.

Netflix intended to release the movie records without any names or other personal information attached to the data, but critics contended that the protections wouldn't be enough to guarantee anonymity. Those arguments were supported researchers and consumers who said they were able to go through data that Netflix released in its first movie-picking contest to identify certain people who rated movies.

The class-action lawsuit filed in the District Court in San Jose alleged  that Netflix's first contest, which ran from October 2006 through August 2009, had violated a Federal law prohibiting video rental firms from publicly sharing their customers' movie preferences.

Netflix argued that it released the data about its subscribers' movie ratings in order to improve its movie’s recommendation system by at least 10%. Of course the offer of a $1 million prize lured more than 51,000 contestants and generated a steady stream of free publicity for the company, based in Los Gatos.

Last week Netflix announced that it has launched a lobbying campaign against the federal Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988, which safeguards consumer video rental information. Netflix claims that the privacy law prevents Facebook users from posting information about Netflix on their Facebook pages.



Netflix attack on Privacy laws

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Netflix has spent $200,000 in lobbying in 2011, up from $20,000 for all of 2009. The Video Privacy Protection Act is considered by consumer protection experts and lawyers as "one of the strongest protections of consumer privacy against a specific form of data collection." The Act includes exceptions for user consent, which means that Facebook users are free to disclose information about the videos they rent. However, Netflix is asking for “blanket consent” says EPIC, a public interest research center, so that Netflix use will be posted regularly on Facebook.