Facebook, Netflix Push Congress on Social Integration, Video Privacy

At today's Facebook f8 developer conference, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings joined Mark Zuckerberg on stage for a surprise announcement: Netflix will finally be integrating social sharing with Facebook. That is, if a bill that is sitting in Congress is ever able to pass on the House floor.

Ironically, Facebook has already had Netflix integration in 44 of the 45 countries the service is available. The one exception? The United States, where an outmoded bill from 1988 called the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) has forbidden the disclosure of one's video rental information, and thus any integration between the two American companies. But a bill called H.R. 2471 would change all that—if Congress can find time between tax legislation and debt issues to pass it.

"Luckily the U.S. has a bill today in Congress to update that old privacy, which will then allow us to turn it on in the United States," Hastings said with a smile.

That phrasing might've excited some—making it sound as if Congress is weighing the issue today—but unfortunately, that's not the case. The House legislative calendar has no mention of H.R. 2471 on the docket.

Instead it appears Netflix is making a push for the legislation to be passed, posting an email to members of Congress to "modernize" the legislation.

Such a request might've been more effective when Netflix had more goodwill among its subscribers—but with the recent Qwikster announcement and price hikes, who knows whether Netflix will respond to the company's encouragements with as much positive gusto as they typical muster for negative news.

(Here at Fast Company, we tried a similar push in July, asking our readers to share the legislation via Gov 2.0 crowdsourcing tool Pop Vox. If you'd like to contribute, you can head to Pop Vox's page for H.R. 2471, spread the word via Twitter hashtag—#Vote4Netflix—and share your feelings on other social media.)

According to Hastings, the feature has already been turned on for Facebook employees. The company has been working on the partnership for about a year now, he said.

And judging from what Zuckerberg previewed at f8, this tool would make watching Netflix an incredibly social experience. After turning the feature on, every movie you watch appears in your news feed (or a new stream of activity called the Facebook "Ticker"), allowing users to follow what their friends are watching in real-time, and click to view whatever movies or TV shows they are viewing simultaneously within Facebook.

In other words, hopefully Congress can at least agree on such a no-brainer as H.R. 2471.

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