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Big Blow to Privacy: Thanks to VPPA Act Video Companies Can Share Your Data

Sites include , . Published on January 6th, 2013. Written by Anthony West.

2012 is largely seen as the year when the internet and online privacy came under attack from legislators. The battles were sporadic but when the threat was real, the internet responded. Bills like PIPA and SOPA met with fierce indignation and were largely defeated. But not all attacks were scuppered and a few including the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) which has now been amended will leave privacy advocates and many citizens outraged.

The Netflix lobby

Under the pre-amended VPPA Act which passed in the 1980s, video rental companies were not able to publish any data relating to what you rented. Netflix however wanted this Act updated to reflect the more social nature of video rentals and online viewing. The company pushed heavily for the amendments and displayed its satisfaction accordingly.

“We are pleased the Senate has moved quickly to modernize the [Video Privacy Protection Act], giving consumers more freedom to share with friends when they want. After the president signs the bill, we will introduce social features for our U.S. members in 2013,” a said a Netflix spokesman in an email to one online political publication.
What does it all mean?

Netflix effectively wanted the ability (which they got) to link your account to social websites like Facebook and Twitter. Under the newly amended VPPA, companies like Netflix who provide video rental services only have to ask your permission once to go ahead and share your video rental and viewing data with other people. If you don’t opt out, a company like Netflix can do such sharing of personal data for a whopping 2 years. Imagine how much content you’d have consumed in such a time and you can see why many privacy advocates are incensed by the passage of the bill.

Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) was arguing for years that such amendments were coming and unless people pressured their representatives, their privacy would be forever eroded. Rotenberg even went as far as testifying in front of congress in a bid to thwart the passage of the bill. “The debate over online privacy and Netflix does not exist in a vacuum, It is becoming increasingly clear that only privacy laws actually safeguard the privacy rights of Internet users,” remarked Rotenberg at one of the earlier hearings.

The commercial motive

Privacy advocates also believe that Netflix pushed for the passage of the bill so that it could sell on user data to advertisers. Rainey Reitman, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s activism director believes that it is only a matter of time before this starts happening.

“Once data is combined with our social media profiles, it can be part of the data used by the online advertising industry for advertising purposes and we’ll be forced to rely on the often confusing privacy settings on social networks to protect our video watching history,” said Reitman.

Netflix’s lobby has paid off and no matter what people at the EFF say, the bill is now amended and law. Ultimately users will have to decide if the prying eye of Netflix is too much for them to bear.

Our extensive list of free movies online is a great start for home entertainment.

More on Netflix:

Netflix is an online movie rental site. But the good news is you don’t have to pay the official subscription fee when you want to try it out for the first time. The Netflix free trial is still available. Netflix is the leading online service when it comes to movie rental in the United States. This article will discuss the fine print of what goes into the free one month membership.

The free trial goes with some few limitations and requirements

The free trial is free but still requires you to register with your credit card. The deal is that after a month of using their service, Netflix will start automatically billing your card. The assumption is they believe you will like the service and wouldn’t mind continuing using it for a fee. If for one reason or the other you didn’t like the service, make sure to cancel the free trial before it is too late.

Take note that the free trial is not for everybody. If you have already subscribed in the past with your name and address, it will never be possible again to get a free trial with Netflix. The other thing is if somebody else in your household has already subscribed to the service, the whole household is not eligible for the trial too. So first find out by asking your house mates if they have already exhausted the chances to enjoy the free trial. Netflix came up with these policies to make sure that nobody abuses of its free trial service.

If you are lucky and can still enjoy the one month free trial, there are some other limitations too. During the free trial you can only have one movie out at a time. That said you still have access to the website online and you can choose to watch movies all day long if you want to.

What you get out of subscribing to Netflix

Netflix offers different subscription plans. The cheapest subscription allows you to watch movies on their website right on the net while the most expensive one allows you to even rent a certain number of Blu-ray DVDs every month. With a library of over hundred thousand movies and TV shows there is no way you can get bored when subscribing to their service.

For those willing to pay more they can get up to 8 DVDs for rent every month that is shipped to their mail box address. You can choose to keep the DVD for as long as you want until you are tired watching it then you return it by simply putting it back to the mail box and the Netflix service will come and pick it up. Once you have given away the previous set of DVDs the service will now send you the next set of DVDs to watch. There are no other extra fees involved in this whole process. Once you’ve paid for your subscription fee, everything else is free.

The chances are you are going to like Netflix and probably not cancel your free trial after a month. It is always interesting to  be able to watch movies without having to pay for it.

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