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Summary:

As part of its settlement of a class-action privacy suit, Netflix will “de-couple” information about which movies its former customers rented from their basic identification profiles no more than one year after they leave the service.

1984-netflix-watch-instantly

Turns out that nobody has to know about that copy of Bad Girls of Red Light District 6: The Extended Cut you rented from Netflix just over a year ago.

U.S. District Court papers filed Friday revealed greater detail as to how Netflix settled a class-action privacy lawsuit filed against it last year, accusing it of violating the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA). In short, Netflix agreed not to hold onto data showing which movies its former customers rented for as long as it has in the past.

In February, Netflix announced that it had settled the case for $9 million in restitution and attorney’s fees, but didn’t talk about any changes to its policies. But as a plaintiff’s motion filed Friday seeking preliminary approval of this settlement shows, Netflix agreed to strip out information about the titles its former customers rent from their basic identification profiles no more than one year after they leave the service.

The VPPA was signed into law in 1988 by then-President Ronald Reagan after a Washington, D.C. newspaper outed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s Blockbuster rental history during his Congressional approval hearings.

As Friday’s plaintiff’s filing noted, a subsection of that law requires video operators to destroy rental-history data “as soon as practicable, but no later than one year from the date the information is no longer necessary for the purpose for which it was collected.”

The plaintiffs contend that, “Netflix’s ongoing maintenance of ‘digital dossiers’ on its subscribers — after canceling their subscriptions and beyond the point where Netflix still needs the information — constitutes a failure to ‘destroy as soon as practicable,’ in violation of the VPPA.”

Netflix declined further comment on the matter beyond its February SEC filing confirming the settlement.

Friday’s filing also revealed that, under terms of the agreement, Netflix will pay $6.75 million to various privacy organizations, while $2.25 million will go to the attorneys who filed the case.

The customers whose privacy rights were allegedly transgressed? They’ll receive nothing more than total consciousness on their deathbed.

Both sides wish for Judge Edward Davila to approve the settlement by June 29.

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  1. Rick Thomchick Tuesday, May 29, 2012

    Reblogged this on Metaholic Musings and commented:
    A small victory for personal privacy online ….

  2. more ex-netflix whiners go back to cable…

  3. Netflix doesn’t have a copy of Bad Girls of Red Light District 6: The Extended Cut, I checked.

    1. Daniel Frankel Jake Wednesday, May 30, 2012

      You have to have a special “Player’s Club” card to access that title. And you have to have verifiable proof (drivers license, passport, etc.) that you’re middle-aged.

  4. I don’t know why netflix went for such kind of pressuring situation.

  5. I was pretty thrilled that I cancelled my netflix subscription and came back 2 years later only to find my queue intact. I hope they give users a choice

    1. Data portability is the other side of that debate sure it good that Netflix will respect privacy more but what if I want to go back later on. They sure won’t let you save your queue to some xml file because that will help you migrate to a competitor. It also a problem with some social media like Facebook who support importing all sort of contact data but don’t let you export out your Facebook contact.

  6. Judge Bork lives!

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