Netflix CEO Reed Hastings took the stage of Facebook developer conference f8 Thursday to talk about the company’s new Facebook app. That app will become one part of Facebook’s new Timeline and Open Graph apps framework, and could help boost viewership on Netflix’s streaming subscription service by surfacing things users’ friends watch. But while Netflix has committed to rolling Facebook Connect out to users in 44 of the 45 countries it operates in, it won’t be available in the U.S. at launch, due to a decades-old law banning the sharing of video rental information.
Netflix has been working on Facebook integration for some time now. With the new feature, Netflix users will be able to share videos that they’ve watched with friends on the social network, and Netflix users will be able to see what their friends streamed on the streaming site as well. Netflix could also possibly take advantage of users’ likes and interests on Facebook to make recommendations to users.
The integration is coming soon for international users, but won’t be available in the U.S. because Netflix is afraid of running afoul of the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), a 1988 law that prohibits video rental companies from disclosing what their customers have watched. The law was passed after Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental history was released during his hearings, and was the basis for a class-action lawsuit against Blockbuster for sharing user rental history during the Facebook Beacon debacle.
Lawmakers have introduced a bill (HR2471) that seeks to clarify how users can opt in to sharing content on social networks, and Netflix urged its users on the Netflix blog to push for the bill by emailing Congress.