If you’ve ever rolled in to work looking like a zombie because of that late-night “Walking Dead” Netflix marathon, your secret may not be safe for long. If Netflix gets their way, your movie and TV show viewing habits will be autiomatically posted to your Facebook timeline, Spotify-style, for all your friends, acquaintances, and stalkers to see.
To be fair, Netflix swears that they will only automatically post your viewing choices to Facebook if you consent and opt in to the program. Facebook users in Canada and Latin America already have the option of displaying what they've watched recently on Netflix.
According to VentureBeat, Facebook is lobbying the U.S. Senate to allow automatic Facebook sharing of what you've watched on Netflix. The change would be a small amendment to part of a larger omnibus bill called the Cybersecurity Act of 2012. The Senate could vote on the amendment as early as next week.
Personally, I'm surprised that Netflix would see such importance in telling the world which episode of "South Park" I just watched. But I am even more surprised that this matter actually requires the attention of the United States Senate.
This matter does require the attention of the United States Senate, though, because of a 24-year-old law called the Video Privacy Protection Act. That law, passed in 1988, prohibited video rental services from sharing customers' movie rental information without written consent or a search warrant.
You see, kids, back in 1988 people would rent their movies from a "video store" that rented "VHS cassettes", and typically had a "back room" devoted to just "porn". Netflix feels the law is outdated in today's 21st Century digital video streaming market.
Streaming services like Spotify and Ustream have enjoyed tremendous growth after striking deals to integrate with Facebook and automatically post users' listening or viewing choices to the Facebook Timeline. Netflix also argues that they have enjoyed tremendous growth in those countries where such automated posting to Facebook is legal.
This change would have serious ramifications for anyone who sneaks in some secret Netflix viewing while at work. While these automated Facebook posts saying what you've just watched would not say when you had watched the movie or show, it would pretty easy to figure out. Your boss or human resources colleague could simply look at the timestamp on the posts before and after your Netflix autopost to see that you were watching "Battlestar Galactica" at 1:30 p.m. on a Tuesday.
It also bears repeating that Netflix insists they will not automatically post your watching habits to Facebook unless you've specifically opted in to the program. It also bears noting that most of the people I know whose Spotify tracks post to Facebook automatically seem completely surprised when informed that everyone can see what they're listening to.