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New 'social features' coming to Netflix

  • Netflix iPad App

  • Netflix Envelope and Laptop

     (Reuters)

Video-rental business Netflix will bring new social features to U.S. users next year, after Congress finally updated a restrictive law from the era of the VHS tape.

The “Video Privacy Protection Act Amendments Act of 2012” updates the old video-privacy act, which had prohibited companies from disclosing their VHS and laser-disc rental history without a court order. It also prevented companies like Netflix and Hulu from sharing that history, as well as likes and dislikes and more, on social media sites.

'We plan to introduce social features for our U.S. members in 2013.'

- Netflix statement

Netflix told Talking Points Memo it planned to add new features as soon as the President signed the bill into law.

“We are pleased that the Senate moved so quickly after the House,” a Netflix spokesperson told TPM in a statement. “We plan to introduce social features for our U.S. members in 2013, after the president signs it.”

Users in Canada and Latin America have had the ability to link Netflix and Facebook accounts and share viewed movies since 2011, but Netflix hasn’t offered it in the U.S. yet due to the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) said the changes would let consumers share video viewing information via the Internet while preserving privacy protections already in the law.

“To protect the privacy of American consumers, the bill retains key privacy protections already in the VPPA which require that consumers “opt-in” to the sharing of their video viewing information,” Leahy said.

Wired.com writer David Kravets said the bill had been hamstrung, however, with the removal of a section that would have prevented authorities from reading your emails without a warrant.

“Sweeping digital privacy protections requiring the government, for the first time, to get a probable-cause warrant to obtain email and other content stored in the cloud [were] removed at the last minute,” he wrote.

An aide for Leahy denied such characterization, telling FoxNews.com the video privacy act was “an entirely different bill than what Chairman Leahy advanced in November.”

Leahy will take up the email privacy act in the new year, she said, labeling it “a top priority” for the Senator.