Upward Battle for Facebook and Netflix?

Senate skeptical of video-sharing legislation

Facebook and Netflix could be facing an uphill battle in the Senate. The two want to see legislation that would pave the way for users to share their streaming Netflix content on the social network.

But in a hearing before the Senate subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, Dems and GOP members did not seem eager about House-passed legislation that would allow Netflix users to share movies on Facebook.

Rushed through late last year under suspension of the rules, the House amendment to the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act (H.R. 2471) would allow companies like Netflix to obtain blanket permission from users to share information about what they're watching, as Facebook users can already do with their other media such as music listening via Spotify.

At the hearing, Netflix argued that the House amendment was necessary for the company to execute the sharing feature on Facebook. "The ambiguity of the [VPPA] creates a drag on social video innovation that is not present in any other medium," said David Hyman, general counsel for Netflix.

But members expressed skepticism that the amendment would protect consumer privacy, especially since the amendment did not set up requirements about withdrawing consent from a blanket permission. That led members to suggest that a case-by-case opt in might be a better and safer approach.

"Case-by-case consent is a good thing," said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the subcommittee. "It's just as easy to click one 'watch-and-share' button. It's no more burdensome to share each time as opposed to a consumer not being able to find out how to opt out."

Even though he called the VPPA "antiquated," ranking member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), also leaned toward a case-by-case opt out. "What's wrong with having a reminder that you're giving away your privacy rights?" he asked.

"This amendment was rushed through the House. We need to work on this," Franken said.