by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 17th 2008 5:00pm
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.
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