Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Can Blockbuster be Sued Over Facebook/Beacon?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the facing-the-book dept.

Privacy 102

An anonymous reader writes "A professor at the New York Law School is arguing that Blockbuster violated the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 when movie choices that Facebook members made on its Web site were made available to other members of the social network via Beacon. The law basically prohibits video rental outfits from disclosing rental choice of their customers to anyone else without specific written consent. Facebook's legal liability in all of this is unclear; with Blockbuster it's a straightforward case of not complying with the VPPA, the law professor says."

cancel ×

102 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

is this (1)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698632)

Going to be the knife to fatally stab blockbuster? As we know they have been hurting from netflix

Re:is this (3, Interesting)

syntaxeater (1070272) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698742)

Doubt it. If anything, I would guess this will be the case where they decide the term "Specific Written Consent" is synonymous with any EULA or application of your signature to a document.

Re:is this (4, Insightful)

faedle (114018) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700130)

.. except there is mountains of case law that says otherwise: that EULAs are, in essence, only marginally enforceable.

This being in some hidden Facebook EULA, or on some 'policy page' for Blockbuster does not mean "the user notifies us in writing". That has specific legal meaning: if they don't have a SIGNED PIECE OF PAPER with the words "I allow you do release my video rental records", they don't have notification in writing of permission.

All this is irrelevant, anyway: the worst that's likely to happen here is some states' attorney general will file a lawsuit, get it certified as "class action", and Blockbuster will settle out-of-court and pay some piddly fine + attorney's fees and send everybody who asks a $5 for free rentals. Big deal.

Re:is this (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700636)

Blockbuster will settle out-of-court and pay some piddly fine + attorney's fees and send everybody who asks a $5 for free rentals. Big deal.

Eh, those settlements usually cost the offending company millions of real dollars (i.e: the attorney's fees and fines) and millions of implied dollars (the cost of offering all those free rentals).

Granted, a few million bucks is a different animal for a company like Blockbuster (631 million market cap [google.com] ) then it would be for you or me, but it's not pocket change for them either.

Re:is this (0, Offtopic)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698834)

Am I the only one who actually likes the business model that BlockBuster has over Netflix? I like going down to the rental store, and getting the movie that I want. I had Zip.ca for a while, and I didn't like that I had to watch whatever they chose to send me. I also didn't like that sometimes movies didn't show up in my locked mail box (I'm in an apartment building), and I would lose a slot for many days while they tried to resolve the issue.

Re:is this (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699398)

The problem with the BlockBuster model is that it assumes that the
local brick and mortar store will have what you want. If it is
popular then it is likely already out of stock. If it is unpopular
then it is likely not even carried by your local store.

Netflix -> Amazon.

Re:is this (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21701582)

According to your logic, the store is not likely to have any movies in stock at all.

Re:is this (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21702134)

10 Copies of Asshole the Movie and Freddy Got Fingered doesn't count.

Re:is this (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21702176)

They also have to have not only WHAT you want by WHEN you want it.

There is a temporal element here that is non-trivial.

A fat PVR that handles PPV well makes more sense than either of them (netflix or blockbuster).

Re:is this (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 6 years ago | (#21703576)

Except that if you watch more than a couple of movies a month, PPV is more expensive than netflix.
Even if you only watch a couple, the lowest netflix one is still cheaper.

Plus, the movies aren't necessarily letterboxed on PPV and you don't get all of the extras. Nor does PPV have the TV shows on DVD that have become very prevalent. (Syndicated reruns are hacked up for more commercials + bugs/time compression, etc.)

Re:is this (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21726950)

Netflix still suffers from the same "I can't get it when I actually want it" problem that conventional rentals suffer from. If you are only interested in being a miser than Netflix might be for you. OTOH, you might be better off with HBO and a PVR.

Also, not all PPV movies are "expensive". Some cable providers have a variety of pricepoints for different movies.

Also, Netflix isn't that cheap either.

Re:is this (1)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699434)

I never liked Blockbuster because of their past history of censorship (see "Last Temptation of Christ"). Maybe they don't do that anymore but there's still a bad vibe for me there. Before Netflix, I always preferred Hollywood Video. And with Netflix, I've never had a problem getting the movies I want. Why take the trouble with going to the video store -- one or two movies delivered to my mailbox every week is as much as I ever find time to watch these days, anyway.

Re:is this (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699598)

I'm more surprised at this LAW that I never knew existed preventing a movie rental place from sharing your rentals without consent.

For once, a law I applaud, I only wish (at least in the US) that they would take this law and expand on it. Make it illegal for ANY commercial (and possibly most govt.) entities from sharing your personal information without express consent. It sure would cut down on a lot of unpleasant things we have due to all the customer information sharing. Junk mail....credit card applications in the mail (unsolicited), marketing crap, etc, etc.

I'd like to see it extended particularly to the credit industry! Make it MUCH harder for people to do a credit check on you. Ok, I can see it for major purchases like a house, etc.....but, for freaking insurance or even in cases today, just applying for a JOB?!?!?

I doubt at this point though, something nice like that would come about...heck, this law came into effect WAY before terrorism was the fear dujour. Too much big money in collecting and selling personal information [acxiom.com] ....

Not to mention that the govt. now likes this, and can gather information on all of us via the private databases when public law/disfavor blocks them collecting it themselves.

Oh well....sure is nice to see that at least in one instance in the past...the govt. did pass a law to try to protect some private individual privacy rights from the corporate world.

I wonder how long before this law is deemed an obstruction to Homeland Security needs?

Pissed off the wrong guy (2, Insightful)

stabiesoft (733417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700286)

From what I read, maybe we just need to publish the Supreme court credit card #'s and maybe we can get stronger credit protections too. I don't think this law wouldv'e existed if Justice Bork's video rental habbits had not been published in the newspaper.

Re:Pissed off the wrong guy (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700670)

You're thinking of Clarence Thomas.

Re:Pissed off the wrong guy (4, Informative)

KingAdrock (115014) | more than 6 years ago | (#21702592)

No he isn't.

From Wikipedia...

During debate over his nomination, Bork's video rental history was leaked to the press, which led to the enactment of the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act. His video rental history was unremarkable, and included such harmless titles as A Day at the Races, Ruthless People and The Man Who Knew Too Much. The list of rentals was originally printed by Washington D.C.'s City Paper.[5]

Re:is this (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700298)

I'm more surprised at this LAW that I never knew existed preventing a movie rental place from sharing your rentals without consent.

The Video Privacy Protection Act [wikipedia.org] was passed after the contentious nomination hearings for Robert Bork [wikipedia.org] to the US Supreme Court. During the hearings somebody leaked his video rental history to the press. Shortly afterwards Congress passed the law.

For once, a law I applaud, I only wish (at least in the US) that they would take this law and expand on it. Make it illegal for ANY commercial (and possibly most govt.) entities from sharing your personal information without express consent

Call me a cynic, but the only reason it passed was because somebody disclosed the rental history of a prominent person. We won't see similar legislation in other areas unless there is a negative impact on someone fairly high up the "food chain". One can only imagine the howls of discontent from the consumer-reporting industry if such a law was applied to all of our personal data. Not that I don't agree with you that we need such a law.

Re:is this (1)

Adocso (553100) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699840)

Wow, if you have a problem with censorship, you must hate all of Hollywood. (one small example, see "The Passion of The Christ"). They are, after all, censoring what you're allowed to watch on a daily basis.

But I agree about the model... Deliver to my home, why should I make a special trip and worry about late fees?

Re:is this (3, Insightful)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700678)

I don't have a problem with Company X choosing not to produce Movie Y because they don't see commercial potential. Studios have to make those decisions all the time (and bad business decisions are inevitable). After all, they have to put up a lot of resources to get a movie made. But if Movie Y does get made, and Company Z, that is in the mainstream movie rental business, refuses to make that movie available to its customers, only to appease some rabid bunch of loonies, then I have a problem with Company Z. I can also understand it if Movie Y is in some niche market that Company Z doesn't play in. It's the caving in to special interest threats like these that I don't like (this holds, whether or not I had any interest in seeing Movie Y).

Re:is this (1)

Adocso (553100) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700840)

You're pretty much describing the case. He paid his own money to get the movie made, it was cast with big names and well done. Company X (and Y, and Z) refused to distribute it because it did not fit with the Hollywood political agenda. And that's just an easy case. Brainwashing on television with hordes of "me too" followers is rampant. Sheep! They're all Sheep! (I will refrain from more detail to keep from further derailing the thread, because all /. threads stay on-topic ;-)). As I say, if you've got a problem with censorship, that entire industry should be a problem for you.

Re:is this (1)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21702640)

These two cases aren't the same. One case is self-censorship. I'm not even sure that such a broad use of the term "censorship" is a good thing. Maybe "self-representation" is more accurate. I fully support anyone's right to publish or not publish submitted materials, as they see fit. Call it an agenda if you like, but it doesn't matter: it's a basic freedom. The other case is caving to blackmail. It only opens the door to further blackmail and reduction of freedom.

Re:is this (1)

Adocso (553100) | more than 6 years ago | (#21702738)

I disagree - they banded together to keep information from being distributed even after he found another way to get it published. In short, a group of people decided what we should or should not see. That's censorship, no matter who is at the controls. Only the fact that the person being censored had enough money and willpower to flip them the bird got around their attempts to censor. They didn't have to publish it - that's a business process that every business must run through. When they started putting up roadblocks to publishing in any manner, then it became attempted censorship. Same thing, just the operators are a different group.

Re:is this (1)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21703190)

I don't know if they "banded together" or not. I won't ask for a citation because such banding is not relevant; if they did then they were all presumably willing participants. Under that presumption none of the studios were censored by this "band". Ask anyone -- or any group/band/cartel or whatever noun you care to apply -- to publish something; they are free to say yes or no. And Blockbuster is free to choose the movies they carry, I'll grant them that. But someone else -- not Blockbuster -- decided that Blockbuster shouldn't carry a certain movie, and Blockbuster caved. That is enough of a flaw in Blockbuster's moral fiber to motivate me to rent elsewhere.

Re:is this (1)

Adocso (553100) | more than 6 years ago | (#21703578)

Oh. Well if the only difference is whether it was an internal or external decision...
http://www.imdb.com/news/sb/2003-08-28#film3 [imdb.com]
http://www.imdb.com/news/sb/2003-08-29#film4 [imdb.com]

There you have it. The government caused censorship.

I increasingly get the feeling that it is more what you agree with than an issue with censorship in general.

Though we're off-topic and karma-draining here, so I'll bow to you sir, and move on.

Re:is this (1)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21703850)

I object to government censorship of movies and ideas, as well as to the crowd-hysteria brand of censorship. If the government were to prevent a studio from releasing a film, I would object just as strongly. However, the citations you gave seem to tell of one individual who put public pressure on a studio to bow out. And the individual happened to be a state assemblyman. Is this an instance of one individual exercising his free speech rights, or is this government censorship? Maybe it's the latter, but somehow I doubt that the state of New York really has that kind of power.

More accurately, this would be the power of the bully pulpit, which of course falls under my original objection. I can't tell from those two blurbs whether the assemblyman's comments were a factor in Fox's decision, or whether they made the decision for internal reasons of their own. If it's the former, then we can say Fox caved just like Blockbuster, which would be a strike against Fox (and not necessarily against all of Hollywood as you originally posted).

Re:is this (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700142)

I didn't say anything about blockbuster's business practices, just their business model. I don't rent from them personally, I use a smaller local place to rent movies from.

Re:is this (1)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21717362)

You're right, of course, they are separate issues. However, Blockbuster's business model doesn't have any significant advantage (for me) over Netflix's. Between the two busines models, I'm neutral as a customer. Given my prior reason not to use Blockbuster, I rent from Netflix.

As an investor, I might also find that the lower overhead of the Netflix model is an advantage.

Re:is this (1)

falsified (638041) | more than 6 years ago | (#21706394)

It is a cool idea, but even Blockbuster's purely online service has pretty crappy selection, and getting a movie that wasn't released in the last year will usually involve a wait. With Netflix, unless it's a truly obscure movie, my turnaround is 48 hours at the most.

Re:is this (1)

poormanjoe (889634) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698866)

Very unlikely anything that has been brick and mortar for as long as Blockbusters has will actually die. Yes, its easier, cheaper, and more efficient to do things of this nature online. Same goes for banking, bill paying, and shopping.
But there is still an intangible value of going out and getting it. Video browsing for examble...most non-nerds have 1 family computer, To gather around and so, no go back! Wait I wanna read about that one! As a family, or even a group of friends going out to pick out a few movies simply can't be replaced.

Re:is this (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699670)

Hollywood Video has been dropping like flies here, so it's possible. They were founded the same year

Re:is this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21698960)

They've been hurting from the fact that their own stupid, short-sighted, and mean-spirited policies have finally come home to roost.

Blockbuster's reactionary response to Netflix actually created a decent competitor to the online upstart, but nobody wants to check it out because everybody still views them as nothing more than a fee-mill. Maybe if they hadn't made their entire business plan orbit around the concept of screwing people with every outrageous fee they could think up (it was great when they renamed the late fee to a "restocking fee" and then advertised no late fees...) they wouldn't be going down in flames right now.

Although, since almost nobody gives a crap about Blockbuster anymore, I don't really see this hurting them. Americans are already pretty negligent when it comes to trying to retain whatever little bits of privacy we can still cling to, so even if Blockbuster wasn't completely irrelevant now, I don't think anybody would even care.

Re:is this (1)

EdelFactor19 (732765) | more than 6 years ago | (#21702492)

probably will be laughed out of the courtroom since you have to have a. consent to it on facebook, and provide the information to access your account. blockbuster isnt making the disclosure choide; they are allowing you to choose to have it disclosed.

if anything i dont see how this much different than netflix and bbuster having rss feeds for each persona nd their queue that dont require any authorization afaik

call me crazy but i dont see how this will do anything at all to them. one way or the other. especially since you could also do this through their own websites (netflix and bbuster) if you knew the email your friend used to register and they accepted an invite to share

Yes, but... (2, Interesting)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698650)

Didn't Facebook members make their movie choices public in the first place?

So this public information was then used by someone else.

What be wrong with this?

Re:Yes, but... (3, Interesting)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698744)

Yes, the users did give permission to Blockbuster to broadcast their rentals. So this is really an issue between "written consent" that the summary says and electronic consent without a hand-written signature. I would guess there's tons of precedent one way or the other, though I wouldn't know which way this would lean.

Re:Yes, but... (4, Insightful)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698908)

The issue is that facebook opts int by default, doesn't fucking tell you, then makes it's it unclear on how you disable the "feature"

Re:Yes, but... (5, Informative)

IcyNeko (891749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699154)

I wrote BBOnline about this, and this was the reply they gave me:

Thanks for contacting Blockbuster Online Customer Care.

I'm very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused. When you log in to your BLOCKBUSTER Online account, the site uses "cookies" to determine if you have ever visited Facebook.com [facebook.com] . (Cookies: a collection of information, usually including a username and the current date and time, stored on the local computer of a person using the Internet. It is used by websites to identify users who have previously registered or visited the site.)

If cookies detect that you have a Facebook account, regardless of whether or not you have installed the Movie Clique(TM) application, then activities on blockbuster.com [blockbuster.com] such as rating movies or adding movies to your Queue will be sent as notifications to your mini-feed and friends' profiles. You will see a "toast" for each action resulting in a notification. If you want to permanently disable the Facebook integration on blockbuster.com [blockbuster.com] , you can easily change these settings on Facebook by clicking on Privacy Settings for External Websites. Under "Allow these websites to send stories to my profile" for Blockbuster, click "Never" and Save.

You may see a pop-up on blockbuster.com [blockbuster.com] which introduces Movie Clique(TM) encourages you to link your BLOCKBUSTER Online® account to your Facebook profile. If you don't want to see the screen pop anymore, click the "Do Not Show This Again" box and click Save. I hope this information helps, feel free to contact me anytime.


So basically, they snag your facebook cookie, then they add your rental info on your account without asking permission, forcing itself on your account, and announcing away. It's up to you to then uninstall that shit.

BBOnline: See you in court!

Re:Yes, but... (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699474)

If you want to permanently disable the Facebook integration on blockbuster.com, you can easily change these settings on Facebook by clicking on Privacy Settings for External Websites. Under "Allow these websites to send stories to my profile" for Blockbuster, click "Never" and Save.

This is new functionality that Facebook just added. If you want to be sure, google for "Block Facebook Beacon". Plenty of articles on how to use add-ons in Firefox to completely disallow Beacon from getting data on you.

The worst part (1)

burndive (855848) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700548)

The worst part about this business is not that Facebook tells your friends. It's that Blockbuster tells Facebook in the first place.

Re:The worst part (1)

mpe (36238) | more than 6 years ago | (#21707708)

The worst part about this business is not that Facebook tells your friends. It's that Blockbuster tells Facebook in the first place.

The worst part for Blockbuster, you mean. Since this is where they are breaking the law in question.

Wrong (1)

mattcoz (856085) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700700)

They don't force anything, you have a chance to decline the posting while you're on the Blockbuster site, and even if you don't decline it then you still have to OK the posting the next time you go to Facebook before it ever shows up in your mini-feed. The legal issue here is that the information is being sent to Facebook in the first place, not that it's being announced to your friends.

Re:Wrong (3, Interesting)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21702470)

You have a 5 second window to "cancel" the sending of the info, but it's worded in a way that you're forced to think about allow or deny... then it chooses on its own and sends. And... you don't get asked to confirm the post. The post happens whether you want it or not, then you are forced to remove it if you don't want it. Beacon==bad UI from a human user standpoint

Re:Wrong (1)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21705002)

You have a 5 second window to "cancel" the sending of the info

The 5 second window you speak of is a pop-up, and many people have their browsers configured to not display pop-up windows. These people will never get the warning, and will just have their porn habits displayed for the world.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

CheckeredFlag (950001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700756)

Wait a minute.... If this is indeed true, how is this technically possible? How can one domain even detect the presence of a cookie for a different domain (besides exploiting a cross-site scripting bug)?

Re:Yes, but... (3, Interesting)

anticypher (48312) | more than 6 years ago | (#21701398)

Beacon also uses Adobe Flash "stored data" space to write cookie style information, that can be read and written to by any site with a flash bug.

This was the buzz all this week at a conference on how to make money from internet tracking. Adobe controls the settings on how much information can be written to your local hard drive, and they sell the ability to anyone willing to pay. There is a global setting that users can turn to "off", but Adobe ignores it if they are given enough money. Since Flash tends to be installed system-wide and on all browsers on a machine, it doesn't matter if you clear out browser cookies or try blocking tracking sites. If a partner site sticks a 1x1 pixel flash bug on their site, it has the ability to read tracking info from any other site, and to write back additional information.

Beacon is clever because it creates a large enough "cookie" that many sites can write into the cookie without changing the size taken on disk. Beacon also defines exactly how to parse the information, and how to write new info without changing the total cookie size.

Of course, I was just watching a canned demo of this, so the company claiming to be behind Beacon could be making it all up, but the sales pitch was pretty convincing. I haven't the time or inclination to verify this, as I don't ever look at face book, and generally don't allow flash on my machines (which leaves the web looking very poorly these days)

the AC

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21705534)

Meh. I have a facebook account, and I use blockbuster's online rental service. When beacon got turned on, making any changes to my rental queue caused annoying popover crap offering to update my facebook with rental info. Each time I clicked no, and, as best as I can tell, the info was never sent. Eventually I got annoyed enough to seek out the permanent opt-out setting, and set it.

Where exactly in there did they do anything without asking permission? Where did they force anything?

Re:Yes, but... (1)

seandiggity (992657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21701758)

On top of that, you have to set your privacy options for EACH RENTAL so that your friends and relatives can't see it, instead of being able to set private/public for your entire queue. So anyone who wants privacy has to go in and set each video they add to their queue to private, and it's public in the seconds/minutes it takes a user to do that (yes, some people still use modems, get disconnected, boss walks into the room, etc.)

Does anyone know if making your queue public by default is also a violation of this law? I can't remember if Netflix does this also.

Re:Yes, but... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21699094)

Yes, the users did give permission to Blockbuster to broadcast their rentals.

Sorry, but not noticing the opt-out checkbox that disappears after a few seconds is not equal to "written consent" and should barely be considered "electronic consent".

Re:Yes, but... (1)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698746)

No! The whole controversy with Beacon is that everyone was opted-in without their consent, and their purchases suddenly started showing up to other people on their Facebook profiles

Re:Yes, but... (5, Informative)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698758)

No, this is about Beacon, the Facebook feature that allowed participating websites to publish stories on your Facebook account about the dealings you had had with them - e.g. items you've bought, or in this case, films you've rented.

Beacon was particularly controversial because it was not only opt-out, you couldn't opt-out of it altogether, you could only opt-out on a per-participating company basis *after* that company had already published a story. Facebook has since made changes due to the backlash the original version caused.

This isn't a case of users making information available and someone else using it, this is the Blockbuster website making available information about its users who also use Facebook, apparently in direct contravention of this legislation.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21700584)

you couldn't opt-out of it altogether


Don't use Facebook. You've "opted out all together".

Sometimes the petty shit people whine about makes me laugh.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

krotkruton (967718) | more than 6 years ago | (#21703894)

Sometimes the explanations mistaken for whining that stupid people take out of context make me laugh.

And sometimes, the poorly thought out red herrings people use make me laugh.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

bn0p (656911) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698852)

What the users did on the Facebook site is not the issue. From the article "... when movie choices that Facebook members made on the latter's [Blockbuster] Web site were made available to other members of the social network".

Unless the Facebook members gave Blockbuster permission in writing to share their movie choices, then Blockbuster violated the law. As discussed in an earlier thread on the Beacon program, it was originally set up as an opt-out program, so many (most?) users had not even given Facebook permission to share this type of information.


Never let reality temper imagination

Re:Yes, but... (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699764)

I can only assume that you are talking about the "Movies" column in the basic info section.

Your rental history will give people a much more accurate representation of your taste in movies than a voluntary list, especially if renting online is your primary way of watching movies. Some people might not want such an honest list being exposed to strangers (or even "friends"). The fact that they can't prevent Blockbuster from transmitting this data to Facebook (other than blocking Beacon) makes this an issue.

1988? (1, Troll)

mckniffen (983873) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698654)

People complain that the US's laws aren't keeping up with technology. And yet in this case, a law from 1988 is being applied today. Does anybody else smell the irony?

Re:1988? (1)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698702)

Does giving out private information really need to change in 19 years. Its illegal to do so then and still is now hence private.

Re:1988? (4, Insightful)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698748)

What exactly has changed since 1988 that should make this law different?

If the law says that this information must be kept private, the internet and computers don't make it any less private.

Rather, the newfound popularity of the internet and computers should make privacy even more important, because once information is released, it spreads far more quickly and easily.

Re:1988? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21701076)

The whole point of the 1988 law was to prevent other senior government officials from being embarrassed in the manner that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was during his confirmation hearings, when reporters obtained his video rental history from Blockbuster or some such and published all the porn titles. Presumably this risk still exists today.

Less ironic than you think. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21698938)

> People complain that the US's laws aren't keeping up with technology. And yet in this case, a law from 1988 is being applied today. Does anybody else smell the irony?

The only reason the VPPA [wikipedia.org] exists is because the video records of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork [wikipedia.org] were leaked. To this day, the act of invading the privacy of a politician for political advantage is called "borking".

Bork's video rentals were unremarkable, so there were no skeletons in Bork's closet. But from that day on, every Senator and Congressman knew that their video rental histories were also subject to exposure to news agencies, and Washington acted to protect itself. If you've got something to hide, you've got plenty to fear, and Washington was evidently so terrified that they made the VPPA apply to regular citizens, not just politicians.

The only way we're going to get a pro-privacy law out of the government is for some enterprising hacker to leak the clickstream of everyone in the government about 20 years from now. Today, that won't work -- because 99% of government officials don't even use the "series of tubes", let alone depend on it for their gay hookers and pr0n. 20 years from now, that will have changed, and a similar Bork-style scandal will erupt. Just imagine the kinds of privacy laws we'd have if someone like Sen. Larry "I'm Not Gay" Craig (R-estroom) had been bound for higher office, NSA leaked their logs of his Intertube traffic.

We know when you've been sleeping,
We know when you're awake,
We know if you've been bad or good,
So be good for goodness' sake!
Oh, you better not surf!
And zip up your fly!
Stop tappin' your toes and trollin' for guys,
Election season's comin' to town!

Re:Less ironic than you think. (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699862)

R-estroom...DAMN I wish I'd thought of that.

Like Bill Mahr's version of that old board game, Clue: "A Republican, in the Men's Room, with his Cock".

Re:Less ironic than you think. (1)

David Rolfe (38) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700014)

Sen. Larry "I'm Not Gay" Craig (R-estroom)
That gave me a good chuckle, too. Esp. since I just posted about him on an older thread. Good one :-D

Not Everything (1)

tsj5j (1159013) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699054)

Not everything needs to be updated. Just like people still die from murder 10 years ago, we still do today. If anything more, we are valuing privacy more than we did in 1988.

Re:Not Everything (1)

Myopic (18616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699932)

If anything more, we are valuing privacy more than we did in 1988.

Yeah, I wish.

Re:1988? (1)

eples (239989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21702594)

What irony? Dude, there were supreme court cases decided in the 1880's that still apply to software today. The Lotus 1-2-3 vs. Excel lawsuit from a couple decades ago, for one classic example. I don't know why anyone would find this ironic at all. It's not even a new phenomenon.

Re:1988? (1)

WK2 (1072560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21705094)

The problem isn't that US laws aren't keeping up. The problem is that they are difficult to enforce, and rather than politicians trying to fix this difficult problem, they feel it is easier to just make more laws, and claim that they are needed to keep up with technology. This results in a feedback loop, because making more useless laws makes all of them more difficult to enforce.

The crimes are assault, murder, theft, and fraud. Perhaps a few more. These haven't changed since the genesis of civilization.

Should have run this one by the lawyers first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21698686)

If a lawyer actually signed off on this for Blockbuster, now would probably be a good time for him to start polishing up the ol' resume.

Maybe I'm wrong? (0, Offtopic)

navygeek (1044768) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698730)

I don't use Facebook, so I could be wrong about what choices are being posted, collected, then distributed, but it sounded to me like the 'choices' weren't necessarily rentals, but favorite/preferred/liked movies. If that's the case, Blockbuster wasn't distributing rental information. Also, as another poster pointed out, aren't the users of Facebook putting this information out there freely and willfully anyhow?

Re:Maybe I'm wrong? (1)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698778)

The problem with that arrangement, at least for Blockbuster, is that such information sharing put it in violation of VPPA before Facebook changed its privacy policies following an outcry over Beacon, Grimmelmann said. The mere fact that Blockbuster passed on movie choice information to Facebook friends without user consent is a violation of VPPA, he said. That information exchange between Blockbuster and Facebook took place in the background without the Facebook user's knowledge, even though the user's consent might have been needed for it to have been shared with other Facebook members, he said.
RTFA helps sometimes.

Re:Maybe I'm wrong? (1)

navygeek (1044768) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698868)

No, I read the article, thanks. However this is not a statement of fact, it is a statement of this individual's - who is not the presiding judge over the (potential) case - opinion. Hence the complaint. It may help if you read the article again:

A professor at the New York Law School is arguing that ...

I didn't see a ruling there, I saw an opinion.

Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (5, Interesting)

neo (4625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698850)

You can't spend much time on facebook without some third party application asking for personal information. More than that the "viral" content is vicious, asking to check your various mail accounts to send requests for more people to join. This is just friendster with a new twist, but the twist is dangerous. You have no idea who you are giving up your information to. Want Big Brother? Think about how facebook looks to the CIA or NSA and now you entire social network was mapped. Not by them, but by you.

No, I quit facebook. Deleted as much as I could before I left, but I know they still have it.

Facebook is dangerous. Period. Go ahead and be a pirate/ninja warrior... but take a look at who wrote that ap. They get your infomation.

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (2, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699102)

Given that the entire point of the site is to share information about yourself, I have a bit of a problem with people complaining that it shares information about them.

It's a free service, not a charity. They need to turn a profit, like any other company, and the only commodity is the information that you *chose* to give them in the first place. Don't like it? Don't use it, it's ever so simple...

What's next, people deliberately setting themselves on fire and then suing the company they bought the matches from?

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699390)

Yes. But it isn't the stuff people put on Facebook that is being published, is it? It's messages like "Rucs_hack just rented Gigli from Blockbuster!" posted on your Facebook site. To use a typical /. (strained) metaphor, if I let you drive my car, can't I complain when you start sleeping in my house?

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699506)

That does go too far, yes, but as I said, thew whole point of the website is to share your information. If we paid Facebook for an account I'm sure it would be a lot easier to control what of your information they use, but we don't, and as a result they will data mine you for all your worth.

Anyone who didn't think this would happen is fooling themselves. ANy compaany will try first, and back off only if they have to. Companies that play nice will get dropped by investors. Besides, how long before it happens so often people end up accepting it? Or accepting that a premium must be paid to opt out, rather than just ticking a box.

Remember the scene in Minority report when John Anderton is walking past those animated billboards and every one talks to him using his name? That's an advertisers wet dream, the idea that all of your consumer activity can be accessed, controlled, and used to monitor everything you do.

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700078)

I believe there is work underway to advertise to you by your location, determined from your cell phone. I'm sure Verizon would sell me out in an instant if there was a buck to be made.

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (1)

CSMatt (1175471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699936)

Except that you didn't expose the information with the expectation that it be sold to advertisers or the government. You only intended it to be seen by select individuals. This is why a lot of people pretended to be 14 or 15 on MySpace so as to get a private profile.

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (1)

jdjbuffalo (318589) | more than 6 years ago | (#21701064)

Given that the entire point of the site is to share information about yourself, I have a bit of a problem with people complaining that it shares information about them.
I think most people might be ok with sharing information with those friends they have so long as THEY control what information gets released and to whom.

I have a big problem with just anyone who is on Facebook gets to view my information. If I could limit who knows what about me and didn't have to worry about micro-managing the changing details about me that get spewed out of every orifice of Facebook every week then I could see signing up. This includes advertisers and the government. I don't want them to know any of these details unless by a court order. All these features would easily be worth paying for.

The only problem with this kind of social network is I don't know how viable it would be and if people would be willing to pay for it.

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21701436)

Don't like it? Don't use it, it's ever so simple...
Exactly. It's easier than most people think to forget the principles here. For example, just the other day when I was shopping online they overcharged my credit card by $40.00. I was going to call them up and yell, but then I stopped and thought to myself...

Given that the entire point of the site is to let you give them money, I have a bit of a problem with people complaining that it takes their money.

It's store, not a charity. They need to turn a profit, like any other company, and the only commodity is the money that you *chose* to give them in the first place. Don't like it? Don't use it, it's ever so simple...
And I realized that it would be hypocritical of me to complain. If I don't like the fact that they took that money, my best course of action is simply to shop somewhere else.

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21701980)

Given that the entire point of the site is to share information about yourself, I have a bit of a problem with people complaining that it shares information about them.

Given that the point of slashdot is to respond to the writing of others, would you have a problem if I called your point a shallow, inane, head-in-the-sand pseudo-analysis just begging to be smacked around? Think about it...

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699140)

Parts of it do bother me. I have to allow the "app" access to my information just to see a video or to look at a picture. They don't explain why they need that access either, you can't say "no access" and still see the video or picture.

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (1)

mini me (132455) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699676)

I have to allow the "app" access to my information just to see a video or to look at a picture.

That's the fault of a poorly developed application. Facebook applications technically do not require you to allow access to your information just to view a video or look at a picture.

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (1)

redalien (711170) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700148)

Not poorly, intentionally. If you want something to spread virally you make it so people have to add it to interact.

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699168)

More than that the "viral" content is vicious, asking to check your various mail accounts to send requests for more people to join.
I've not seen this at all - the worst I've seen is the apps that invite you to invite your Facebook friends to add the application. I've not had a single application ask me to supply my email address book details (and of course I wasn't stupid enough to supply them to Facebook when I joined).

Go ahead and be a pirate/ninja warrior... but take a look at who wrote that ap. They get your infomation.
They get what you're willing to give, which in my case is my name, date of birth, town and country of residence, and the names of those friends that I have that are also on Facebook, and possibly my email address. I've not put my full address or phone number, etc on the site because frankly, why would I? My friends already have them. If I get chatting to someone via the site and decide that I want them to have them, I'll send them to them - probably offline (well, offline as far as Facebook is concerned).

Yes, sites like Facebook make it easy and tempting to give out all sorts of information that perhaps should be kept a little more private, but they by no means force you to do so. "Dangerous" is an inappropriate word, I think. So my government's security service could get my name and the names of my friends. My full name, date of birth, place of residence, sex, photograph, place of work, employer, salary, and quite probably height and approximate weight are already on a number of governmental databases (e.g. revenue services, passport, driver's licence, medical records, etc). Seriously, what's one more?

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (1)

Andrewkov (140579) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699502)

I never give my real date of birth to any website -- it's one more piece of information that seems to be asked when applying for any kind of loan or credit card, so I don't want that info out there. If it reduces my chances of being an identity theft victim even by a small margin, it's worth thinking about.

Re:Privacy is why I dropped Facebook. (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 6 years ago | (#21701526)

Think about how facebook looks to the CIA or NSA and now you entire social network was mapped. Not by them, but by you.

I've posted this before on this topic, but since you mentioned it...

The Okhrana, the Czarist predecessor of the GPU, is reported to have invented a filing system in which every suspect was noted on a large card in the center of which his name was surrounded by a red circle; his political friends were designated by smaller red circles and his nonpolitical acquaintances by green ones; brown circles indicated persons in contact with friends of the suspect but not known to him personally; cross-relationships between the suspect's friends, political and nonpolitical, and the friends of his friends were indicated by lines between the respective circles. Obviously the limitations of this method are set only by the size of the filing cards, and, theoretically, a gigantic single sheet could show the relations and cross-relationships of the entire population. And this is the utopian goal of the totalitarian secret police: a look at the gigantic map on the office wall should suffice at any given moment to establish, not who is who or who thinks what, but who is related to whom and in what degree or kind of intimacy.

Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism

only blockbuster is at fault (1)

Greenisus (262784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21698900)

in this case, facebook is more of a common carrier. blockbuster is the one who broke the law; they just used Beacon as the tool.

Better sue now (1)

huckamania (533052) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699178)

Cause they me be Chapter 11 in a few more quarters...

Re:only blockbuster is at fault (1)

Petey_Alchemist (711672) | more than 6 years ago | (#21701388)

This isn't exactly true. I was privy to the academic listserv that gave rise to the article in the OP. Here is a segment from the discussion that lays out the argument for both Facebook and Blockbuster's culpability here, from a cyberlaw professor who I'll keep anonymous.

"This is the reasoning:

1. Blockbuster is a "video tape service provider" under the statute.

2. Blockbuster is prohibited from "knowingly disclosing, to any person,
personally identifiable information concerning any consumer of such
provider . . . concerning the rental, sale, or delivery of prerecorded
video cassette tapes or similar audio visual materials"

3. Blockbuster enters an agreement with Facebook under which Facebook,
acting on behalf of Blockbuster, discloses personally identifiable
information concerning the rental, sale, or delivery of prerecorded
video cassette tapes or similar audio visual materials by one of
Blockbuster's consumers to "other persons" -- the social network of that
consumer in the Facebook social networking site.

4. Blockbuster presumably knew that this would happen and via its
contract with Facebook caused it to happen.

5. Blockbuster has the same liability for acts done through its agent
as for acts done by itself.

6. Furthermore, under law of agency an agent, who knowingly commits an
act which if committed by the principal would be an offense, is equally
liability with the principal. (This concept is captured under the
criminal law by the idea of a conspiracy where co-conspirators all share
the liability equally.)

7. Thus, both Blockbuster and Facebook appear to be in violation of the
Act."

You also have to keep in mind that Facebook is not a common carrier here because it is their Beacon program which enables the transmission of information. Moreover, even if you opt out of Beacon, it appears--and this is the important part--that websites can still gather your persona information if they are part of Beacon.

For instance, under the wording in the current Facebook page, let's say I opt out of Blockbuster's program. Now Blockbuster can't send updates to my news feed. That might take care of the VPAA.

But even so, Blockbuster apparently can still grab my profile information from my Facebook cookie, whether or not I opt out of the program.

This contravenes not only Blockbuster's privacy policy, but also Facebook's, since although the Facebook TOS explicitly reserve the right to use your information to promote the Facebook service it does not allow them to use your information for the promotion of third party services.

The biggest mystery, in my mind, is why some of the larger privacy groups haven't already filed suit. It's pretty clear there is something wrong here.

Question for any expert... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21699062)

This may be a naive question, but I've searched the Facebook developer documents and can't get a straight answer: Do the third-party developers of Facebook apps get access to your profile information?

For that matter, where does the code for these third-party apps run? Is it uploaded to the Facebook servers (and run from there), or are these third-party developers running code on their own webserver that uses hooks into the Facebook API?

If I install a Facebook app, does this mean that the developer has access to my profile (even if it is set to "friends only"). Even if the code runs entirely on Facebook's servers, it would seem like it would be easy for a developer to sneak-in code for "phoning home" in some way. Worse, it seems like this proliferation of mini-apps is just begging to create a myriad of security holes that others can exploit to access your restricted profile.

The very fact that Facebook doesn't clearly define what the flow of information is a problem (beyond useless "we value your privacy" rhetoric and "we can do whatever we want with your data" EULA statements). Does anyone have an understanding of the Facebook infrastructure, and can enlighten us all about what the flow-of-information on Facebook is really like?

Re:Question for any expert... (3, Informative)

Skidge (316075) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699948)

Third-party applications run on third-party servers. They have access to most of your profile information, but aren't allowed to save all but the most basic pieces (user id, network id, etc.) because of the Terms of Service. They aren't supposed to store your friends, even. However, any info that you enter in the app is fair game. For example, if you enter the books you've read in this app [facebook.com] , they can store that information.

The question is, do you trust these 3rd party apps to not store your personal info from your profile?

For reference, halfway down this page [facebook.com] is a decent list of profile information available to developers.

Re:Question for any expert... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21700102)

its run on their (facebooks) servers, blockbuster then passes your cookie info to them (as the browser security model forbids facebook from accessing your blockbuster cookie)

here is the code that is embedded on the blockbuster site
http://www.facebook.com/beacon/beacon.js.php?source=5128113678 [facebook.com]

it can be blocked by the Firefox extension Adblock+ [adblockplus.org] and adding the rule

*facebook*beacon*
or to stop other trackers as well (as the word beacon is a common tracking terminology)
*beacon*

regards
A

Short answer (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699096)

Can? Yes. Lose? Who knows.

Facebook is screwed? (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699124)

If this is what we know about publicly that Facebook is up to, how long will it be before something surfaces about them collecting DNA or some other ungodly personal info and selling it? Won't someone think of the children?!

haven't looked at in a while (1)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699148)

But does Facebook rent movies now? Otherwise, how does this apply (other than stretching the law to mean what you want to mean)?

Answer (1)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699170)

Can they be sued?

Yes

Will Facebook lose?

I don't think so Tim

Re:Answer (1)

IcyNeko (891749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699238)

but blockbuster can be sued. :D

And they'll lose. :D

isn't it obvious? (1)

AdamReyher (862525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699520)

Anyone who's been on Facebook for more than 5 minutes realizes that when you use these "plug ins," they naturally show up to the public/your friends/your networks. That's the whole point. I honestly think Facebook users understand. Now, if this was on Myspace ...

Re:isn't it obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21700314)

No plugins are involved.

How many more dumbasses have to cry, "Oh, the users wanted it public," before they RTFA.

What about Netflix? (3, Interesting)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 6 years ago | (#21699548)

I can see my friends' rental histories on Netflix, and I'm sure they can see mine. I probably checked a box somewhere, but I don't think I consented to this sort of thing "in writing."

Switch to Netflix (1)

Micrope Rex (960359) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700214)

Blockbuster's "new and improved" website is a mess. They have decided to add interactive features on the site. However, each time the mouse points at a movie title, it insists on pulling up everything about the movie as a popup. This significantly slows the browsing experience. The Queue manager is so slow, it is frustrating. And to top this - Facebook widget. One of the lures of using an online DVD rental system is the ability to anonymously procure risque or adult-themed movies without feeling embarrassed by the check-out clerk. Now they want the whole Facebook universe to know that you just rented Kama Sutra - Part 4?

And to Think (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 6 years ago | (#21700726)

I used to laugh at all the paranoid nuts who couldn't transition over to the new forum or site because they didn't allow cookies.

This was 8 years ago. I guess these people were simply ahead of their time.

Facebook Neutral (1)

soulphonate (1203318) | more than 6 years ago | (#21701028)

I think Blockbuster messed up pretty bad setting all this up. They probably should have researched their boundaries before jumping into something like this. As far as Facebook, they'll probably be named as a defendant, but I don't think anything will happen to them. They are neutral and Blockbuster used their services without checking to see if it was totally legal on their end. For example, if a man shoots another man, the murderer would be punished, but the company that made the gun would be clear because they merely made the weapon, they didn't tell the guy how to use it.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>