President Obama signs Netflix video-sharing law

U.S. -

President Obama signed legislation that lets Netflix users share their video viewing history on social networks. The new law, however, lets authorities monitor people's email without needing to obtain a warrant.

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President Obama signed a bill, Jan 10, that lets Netflix users automatically share their viewing history with Facebook and other social networks. A 1988 law, designed to protect people's video rental privacy, had previously prevented Netflix users from doing so.

Netflix on March 13 introduced a feature that lets users share their viewing histories with their Facebook friends.

A Senate committee approved privacy legislation in November that was proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT. At that point, it would have amended the Video Privacy Protection Act so authorities would need a warrant to read private information stored online.

Capitol Hill, Washington, DC 20016, USA

Before the amendment passed the full Senate, it was stripped of the warrant requirement. Instead, it grants 22 regulatory agencies new power to read material stored online, and it lets law enforcement dive into private accounts without notifying the owner or a judge in some cases.

"There is no good legal reason why federal regulatory agencies such as the NLRB, OSHA, SEC or FTC need to access customer information service providers with a mere subpoena." Markham Erickson, a Washington, DC lawyer who specializes in tech and startups

Other agencies winning new power under the bill include the FTC, postal commission and NLRB. Leahy had intended to update a pair of 1980s surveillance laws. But trade groups for prosecutors and sheriffs objected, and the provisions later vanished.

The law does nothing to change federal authorities ability to read any data stored in the cloud more than 180 days, including private email, without a warrant.

The original video privacy law shielded Americans' video rental history from public view after a newspaper published Judge Robert Bork's video-rental records during his failed 1988 Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Facebook and Netflix supported changing the law to allow sharing.

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