Netflix – Facebook Integration and the US Congress

September 22, 2011
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Today, Netflix presented at the F8 conference to talk about their planned integration with Facebook. You can see what you friends are watching and they can see what you are watching on Facebook. Not only on a granular level, but Facebook will present what it finds to be interesting trends among your friends’ viewing habits. Mark Zukerberg’s example showed that four of his friends just watched movies staring Johnny Depp. Netflix will be integrating with both Facebook’s newly announced Timeline as well as their OpenGraph platform. Facebook will have similar integration with Hulu.

Netflix’s expectation is that this new form of social media discovery will double their subscribers. Well, that’s at least what Mark Zuckerberg laid out there as the potential for Netflix (according to Reed Hastings).

The “sad” part of the story is that this functionality will not be available to Netflix customers in the United States. Apparently, the other 44 countries with Netflix will have access within several weeks.

Sometime ago, Netflix stated they would be holding off on Facebook integration for US customers because of a 1988 law, the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA). Calling upon Congress to change the law first, Netflix said they would move ahead with Facebook integration in other countries. Netflix asked its customers today to email their Congressional representative to help pass the bill via their blog.

Reed Hastings stated the law was in the US Congress but what’s the likelihood that it will pass? Well, in July the bill was introduced to Congress by Representative Robert Goodlatte from Virginia and it was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill was taken up by the Judiciary’s subcommittee on Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. The bill is not on the sub-committee calendar at the moment. The committee doesn’t publish upcoming hearings more than a week in advance and after today there’s nothing currently scheduled. The Committee would not comment to Tech of the Hub on when the bill will be considered. For the bill to pass, it needs to be referred out of the subcommittee with a recommendation, voted on by the House and then the Senate and ultimately signed by the President. So, even if it appeared on the sub-committee’s calendar tomorrow, it would likely take several weeks to get through the legislative process. The bill has been slowly but surely been gaining co-sponsors over the last few weeks. Of the 12 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, 6 are from California where Netflix is headquartered. While the bi-partisan list of co-sponsors is a good sign, the fact that it has been sitting in committee since July makes one wonder if it will pass or not. Can Washington at least come together on social media integration?

Netflix started laying the groundwork for this integration sometime ago. Last January, Netflix updated their terms and conditions to allow for the functionality. Netflix’s terms and conditions for customers are here.

From the language in the agreement, you need to explicitly link your Netflix and Facebook accounts. If you do, here’s a run down of the features based on the terms & conditions:

  • The shows you watch will be displayed for your Facebook friends
  • Your ratings for shows will be displayed on Facebook
  • The fact that you are a Netflix member will be shown on Facebook
  • The posting of this data will automatically happen
  • If Grandma also uses your account, the shows she watches will also post to your Facebook account!  One Netflix account = One Facebook account
  • Your Netflix recommendations will be influenced from Facebook data
  • Who can see your Netflix doings will rely on your Facebook privacy settings
Based on the F8 presentation, it appears this data will be integrated with Timeline and summarized as well.

With Netflix splitting into two companies, is the streaming business still subject to the VPPA?  Perhaps it was one of the impetuses to break the company in two. Click through to read the Netflix terms & conditions that cover social media integration.  Stay tuned.

Update: Hulu announced they are going live with Facebook integration in the US. Why can they go ahead when Netflix cannot? It gives credence to our theory about one of the reasons why Netflix split the business in two.

Related Posts:
Netflix and Qwikster Apologize but not for Inconvenience
Netflix’s Growth Challenges
Best 2011 Blu-ray Player for Netflix


Here is the section on Facebook and social media:

Social Media
For members in certain countries, you can connect your Netflix account to Facebook. If you choose to connect, you’ll be able to take advantage of various social features we will be creating as part of the Netflix service, as well as features available on Facebook. These features will be designed to share information with others – the essence of social media. For example, your friends and others who have access to view information about you on Facebook will be able to see (on Facebook and on Netflix) that you’re a Netflix member as well as what you’ve watched, rated, and other information about your use of the Netflix service. You’ll also be able to see similar information about your Facebook friends who are connected with Netflix. In addition, Netflix may personalize and otherwise enhance your experience based on your Facebook information, such as your basic information, and “Likes.” Please pay careful attention to your Facebook Connect settings in “Your Account” as well as your Privacy Settings in Facebook which will impact this feature and may give you some control over the information that is shared and who it is shared with. Also, please see our Privacy Policy to learn more about the scope, extent and uses of information we gather.
Please note that only one Facebook account can be connected to each Netflix account. All Netflix account activity will be posted automatically to the Facebook account that is connected to Netflix. If you have authorized more than one member of your household to use your Netflix account, it is possible that their Netflix activity may be posted to your Facebook account or be visible to your Facebook friends using the Netflix service.
While we hope that you find the Facebook Connect feature to be a great way to share information, including discovering new movies & TV shows, you may nonetheless disconnect your accounts at any time by clicking on the “Your Account” link, selecting the “Manage Facebook Connect” link (located in the Preferences section) and then selecting “Disconnect.” Facebook may also offer ways to manage the information you share with Netflix. See the Facebook website for details.
BY CONNECTING YOUR NETFLIX ACCOUNT TO YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT, YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT YOU ARE CONSENTING TO THE CONTINUOUS RELEASE OF INFORMATION ABOUT YOU TO OTHERS, INCLUDING TO FACEBOOK (IN ACCORDANCE WITH YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS ON FACEBOOK AND YOUR ACCOUNT SETTINGS ON NETFLIX). IF YOU DO NOT WANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOU, INCLUDING INFORMATION SUCH AS YOUR MOVIE & TV SHOW ACTIVITY, TO BE SHARED IN THIS MANNER, DO NOT USE THE FACEBOOK CONNECT FEATURE. We and Facebook are continually making changes and improvements to this feature, and therefore the available features and information that is shared may change from time to time. These changes may take place without notice to you and may not be described in these Terms of Use.

Tags: Facebook, Hulu, Netflix, streaming

4 Responses to Netflix – Facebook Integration and the US Congress

  1. […] Tech of the Hub’s Gabe Gagliano speculates that one motivation for the Netflix/Qwikster split may be trying to avoid falling under the law, called the Video Privacy Protection Act. The new streaming-only Netflix may be able to claim that the law was never intended for their business and that it should not be applied to them. Here’s Gagliano on what Congress would have to do to enable Netflix-Facebook integration: […]

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