Blockbuster Sued For Revealing Movie Rental Info To Facebook's Beacon

from the oops dept

There was plenty of people upset by Facebook's original "Beacon" advertising system, that automatically connected information on purchases to your "news feed" and broadcasted them to all your Facebook friends -- but now we'll find out if some of that activity was illegal. One of the initial participating companies was Blockbuster, who automatically fed information to Facebook about what movies you had rented. It turns out that there's a specific federal law against revealing info about movie rentals (who knew?). The Videotape Privacy Protection Act was apparently passed by Congress after Supreme Court Appointee Robert Bork's videotape rentals were revealed while he was being reviewed by Congress. While plenty of folks don't know about this law, you would think that it would be pretty near the top of the list of laws that a company like Blockbuster would be familiar with. Yet, it seems to not have occurred to anyone there that automatically feeding movie rental info to Facebook might violate that law. However, it appears someone else did recognize this and has now sued Blockbuster for violating the law. Not surprisingly, the plan is to turn this into a class action lawsuit. Thanks to the specifics of this particular law, it's unlikely that other Beacon participants violated this law, but it's only a matter of time until class action lawyers figure out some other law they probably violated.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: advertising, beacon, privacy, video privacy protection act
Companies: blockbuster, facebook


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2008 @ 5:08pm

    I must be psychic!!!! I know how this will end!!! The lawyers will get paid a whole lot of money. Blockbuster will not admit wrong doing. They will agree to review their policies and not do this again.
    They will send out a coupon for 1 free video rental (So long as you provide all your personal information) to those who rented movies during this period and may have had their information revealed.
    The attorney's will get paid based on how many coupons got sent out, (not how many were actually used).
    The attorney's will make lots of money!!!!
    God bless America (Just don't make us sue you for it)!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2008 @ 5:25pm

    You want justice?

    Throw a brick through BlockBuster's window. You won't get your $2,500. But you'll get $2,500 worth of satisfaction. And it's the only way you'll get anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    yo ho ho...., 17 Apr 2008 @ 5:35pm

    There oughta be a law!

    Against class-action lawyers and ridiculous lawsuits...!

    Gotta love a system that rewards those who "seek" damages rather than those that were actually damaged.

    Never forget... More lawyers in the state of NJ than all of Japan and Korea combined!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DOH, 17 Apr 2008 @ 6:00pm

    Ignorance is no excuse

    Did this happen in Oregon ?
    If so, BB may have a defense - they were not allowed access to the laws because the laws are under copyright.

    http://techdirt.com/articles/20080416/133815864.shtml

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mark, 18 Apr 2008 @ 1:09am

    Fake personal information is your friend.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    C-HEN, 18 Apr 2008 @ 5:35am

    Gamefly does this too whenever you rent a game from their site. At first I didnt mind, but it kinda got annoying. This was pretty easy to resolve however as I went to my preferences and disabled the notices. Done. No lawsuit necessary.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JB, 18 Apr 2008 @ 6:09am

    TOS

    I'm sure that the terms of service which no one reads says that you agree to allow Facebook and other sites to share any and all information about your activities with anyone they please.

    And even if it didn't say that when you signed up for Facebook, one of the provisions probably allows them to change the TOS by sending out an email notification that no one reads.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tim stevens, 21 Apr 2008 @ 5:32am

    federal law: movie rental info private

    I think that law came about due to the Clarance Thomas hearings. One of the Democrat dirty tricks was to obtain a copy of his Blockbuster rental history and release the info to the press. Seems the soon to be SC justice rental a few naughty flicks which teens can now bittorrent overnight.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 21 Apr 2008 @ 9:51am

      Re: federal law: movie rental info private

      I think that law came about due to the Clarance Thomas hearings.

      No, it was the Robert Bork hearings, not Clarence Thomas.

      But it still doesn't explain the special law *just* for video rentals.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    havenja07, 17 Jun 2010 @ 9:51pm

    Wonderful

    This is a wonderful opinion. The things mentioned are unanimous and needs to be appreciated by everyone. I appreciate the concern which is been rose. The things need to be sorted out because it is about the individual but it can be with everyone. ===================== Rental Cars America

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    pittplasticsurgery, 27 Jun 2010 @ 8:11am

    after blockbuster, we can expect a new app on iphone for newly released movies pittsburgh plastic surgeons and cosmetic surgeries (Pittsburgh)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.