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Summary:

Netflix is ready to pay $9 million to resolve a class action over keeping subscriber records too long. But now dozens of people are telling a judge not to approve the deal because they get none of the money.

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Dozens of Netflix users are filing objections to a class action settlement that would see Netflix pay $9 million to be released from claims that it illegally retained customers video records. The objectors, who are filing their protest with a California court, complain that subscribers receive none of the money.

The settlement is meant to resolve dozens of lawsuits related to Netflix’s decision to retain subscribers’ rental histories for more than one year in violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act. The VPPA is a 1988 law that Congress passed to regulate video stores but, in recent years, it has become a headache for companies like Netflix and Facebook.

The Netflix settlement, which affects tens of millions of subscribers nationwide, was proposed in February and a federal judge gave it a conditional green light in July. Since then, lawyers have been sending out millions of emails to notify customers. The judge also ordered them to place 60 million notification ads on Facebook like this one:

This notification process would normally pave the way for the court to rubber stamp the $9 million deal at a scheduled hearing in December. But that approval may now be at risk given that court records show more than 50 objection letters. The objections vary in length and sophistication but the underlying complaint is the same — that third party privacy groups and lawyers get the money while the subscribers get nothing. You can see another full example below but here is a sample letter from a Michigan woman who notes “We are the customer who was done wrong” :

These objections come as judges are growing skeptical about privacy settlements that fail to do anything for the consumers who are affected. This month, for instance, a California judge refused to approve a $20 million settlement over Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories” on the grounds that half the money went to the lawyers and none to users. In the past, similar settlements involving products like Google Buzz and Facebook Beacon have typically sailed through the courts with only a handful of objections.

Here’s a sample objection:

Netflix Objection

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  1. David Schlosberg Wednesday, August 29, 2012

    How do I get my movie viewing history? I\’ve called and written Netflix and have gotten no response. This is what I\’ve sent so far…

    How do I get my personal viewing history (my old queue) in an easy to use electronic format?

    I used to love Netflix but canceled when my queue was surprisingly not viewable when I switched to streaming. Justin the supervisor I spoke with on August 1, 2012 said I have to re-open my account or mail a letter to corporate to access my own personal data. I don’t think its reasonable that I have to pay to get my personal history after I was a longtime subscriber and fan and I am yet again reminded of how Netflix doesn’t seem to value my time by making me write a letter to an unspecified person.

    – No response yet! Suggestions?

    1. David, no idea but that’s an interesting question.. In the same way Facebook users are demanding access to their profile, it seems right that Netflix subscribers should be able to do the same. As you note, it is in many ways your data

  2. Yeah i think its unfiar that the users do not get the money and the money goes to not for profit organizations, how were those organizations affected, its total BS I was wronged not them

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