Today the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it easier for consumers to digitally share information about the movies and television shows they're watching. As reported by The Hill, H.R. 6671 serves as an amendment to the Video Privacy Protection Act, and relaxes the language of the Act by allowing users to give their consent for the sharing of viewing information online; the Act currently mandates that permission be given in writing only.
The limitations imposed by the VPPA have caused problems for companies like Netflix and Facebook. Outside of the US, users can share the programs they're watching on Netflix with Facebook frictionlessly, much like they do with music or articles they're reading. The provisions in the VPPA have prevented that from happening stateside with video, resulting in Netflix lobbying Congress to amend the rules.
This particular bill passing the House doesn't mean this is a done deal, however. A previous bill that passed the House would have achieved a similar result, but ended up getting tied up in the Senate Judiciary Committee. While that bill did make it out of committee in November, it had been tied to new legislation that would require authorities to obtain a search warrant before obtaining certain emails from individuals. This new version of the bill the House passed today contains no such provision — and it already has the American Civil Liberties Union upset about the larger implications. "Changes to electronic privacy cannot happen piecemeal," the ACLU's legislative counsel, Chris Calabrese, said in a statement. "If we are to achieve true reform — which means getting full protection for Americans' in-boxes and private communication — we cannot give priority to special interests. If they want updates to our privacy laws, they should have to wait in line with the American people."