Netflix mockups of Facebook sharing from its 2011 rollout to Canada and Latin America, via Netflix
I'd say that about ten percent of my Facebook feed is simply updates on what people are watching on Netflix. But you know what? I'd really like more of that, if only so that I can sneer mightily at people's Gossip Girls binge-watching updates from atop my mighty mountain of discarded King of the Hill episodes.
Thankfully, Netflix is going to make that happen. 18 months after the service rolled out Facebook connectivity to international subscribers, it's now bringing auto status updates to the US–if you choose to do so, of course.
The reason for the delay–is Netflix the last major service to not have Facebook connectivity?–is actually rather interesting. The 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act placed a "general ban on the disclosure of personally identifiable rental information unless the consumer consents specifically and in writing," and also required police to obtain warrants to receive such records.
Considering the data free-for-all that the Internet has become (and don't forget the warrantless wiretaps), enacting a law like the VPPA seems impossible today. In fact, it kinda is, because Netflix had the law amended. After a whole lot of lobbying, President Obama signed an amendment to the law in January, which allows users to opt-in to a sharing feature.
It's a huge win for Netflix, as it means it'll get more reach through Facebook's ginormous network. For users, the privacy concerns aren't huge. It's an opt-in feature, which is great. According to the AP, the movie sharing will be corralled within Netflix itself, unless you choose to post to your Facebook wall.
Basically, that means that Netflix is using Facebook to make its service social, with your movies displayed to your friends' Facebook-enabled Netflix account under a couple new sharing tabs, and vice versa. For families and multi-user houses, Netflix is testing having multiple Facebook accounts, to help prevent sharing embarrassing view histories.
So, hooray, social Netflix, right? I mean, I suppose it's an interesting idea, and it does have the advantage of hooking you up with a stream of recommendations that actually come from real people. But, at the same time, it's a bummer to see yet another privacy law get cut up in the quest to make all of our data as shareable as possible.