When Facebook first announced its Open Graph developer tool that allows users to share activities through Facebook apps, dozens of major brands and services were on board for the launch, including Netflix. However, since then Netflix has released its app to almost every country except the US. And the reason for this exclusion appears to be that an ambiguous privacy law created in the late 1980s could deem the app illegal here in the states.
“Unfortunately, we will not be offering this feature in the U.S. because a 1980′s law creates some confusion over our ability to let U.S. members automatically share the television shows and movies they watch with their friends on Facebook,” said Michael Drobac, director of Government Relations at Netflix.
The law in question is the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), which protects consumers’ privacy in relation to video rentals and does not allow information on what video content a consumer has watched to be shared. However, that law was created with video rental stores of the 1980′s in mind and has become outdated.
What sparked the creation of the VPPA was when a Washington City Paper freelance writer published the video rental history of then-Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, which was obtained from a video store clerk. The law was then passed to protect people’s video rental privacy and made video tape service providers liable for up to $2,500 in damages.
But why do other video streaming services, such as Hulu, have Facebook apps? Well, it’s possibly due to the fact that Netflix still offers physical DVD rentals, which could classify its business as a traditional video rental service that falls within the scope of the VPPA.
Netflix has created a campaign to urge Congress to update the VPPA and if you feel strongly enough about having a Netflix Facebook app, you can show your support by visiting the campaign page here.