HR 2471 Passes House of Representatives (Video Sharing on Social Networks)

December 6, 2011

Today, HR 2471, to amend the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) was passed by the US House of Representatives. Netflix, Google and Hulu have advocated for HR 2471 so customers can share their viewing activity and history with friends on social networks such as Facebook. HR 2471 was debated during “suspension rules“, a time normally reserved for non-controversial bi-partisan bills that should quickly pass. While the bill does have 34 co-sponsors from both parties, it did not appear to be non-controversial based on the floor debate.

The sponsor of the bill, Representative Bob Goodlate from Virginia stated that the bill was pro-consumer. It empowers consumers to share information as they currently do with music and news on-line. He cited a recent editorial in Roll Call penned by the Future of Privacy Forum advocating for the bill.  Representative Conyers from Michigan also spoke to support the bill but stated he would have preferred periodic consent versus the one-time consent specified by the bill.

Representative Mel Watt reiterated his objections from the Judiciary Committee’s session on the bill. In addition, he introduced a letter from the Electronic Privacy Information Center which stated that the bill makes it “more difficult for users to protect their data”. Given the lack of committee hearings and the scheduling of the vote during suspension rules, Congressman Watt felt the bill was being rushed through. He thought that members needed to hear from privacy experts and industry players to better understand it before voting. Representative Hank Johnson from Georgia also voiced his opposition to the bill.

Apparently, Representatives Goodlate and Watt were not able to work out their differences over the bill after the bill’s mark-up in the Judiciary Committee. Congressman Watt stated that he had a “different definition of protecting privacy” than Congressman Goodlate. Congressman Goodlate felt the Nadler amendment which requires a separate and distinct consent for the sharing of viewing information addressed Congressman Watt’s concerns.

Listening to the debate, there seems to be some confusion about what happens to your viewing data after you consent to sharing. Listening to Congressman Watts and Johnson, there was an implication that viewing data could then be sold to third parties.

In the end, there was enough opposition to the bill to force a vote by the entire House of Representaties. Later in the afternoon, the vote passed overwhelmingly 303 – 116. For the bill to become law, it needs to still pass the Senate and be signed by the President.

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Tags: Facebook, law, Netflix, streaming

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