House vote updates Bork-era video rental privacy law

The VPPA was passed in 1988 after a list of videos rented by Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork were published, which led to quick demands for greater privacy. But in light of new technological developments over the last few decades, companies like Netflix have said the law makes it hard for people to voluntarily share their rental choices with friends online.

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Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who sponsored the bill, said allowing customers to approve sharing their rental lists online is a reasonable step in light of the speed at which people want to share this information.

"With today's technology, consumers can quickly and efficiently access video programming through a variety of platforms, including through Internet protocol-based video services, all without leaving their homes," he said. "This bill updates the VPPA to allow videotape service providers to facilitate the sharing on social media networks of the movies watched or recommended by users."

Goodlatte stressed that the bill still provides for privacy for people who want it, and gives them complete control over whether their information will be shared.

The bill is similar to legislation the House approved last year, H.R. 2471, but it includes two changes suggested by the Senate. First, it requires video rental companies to give consumers a "clear and conspicuous" option to withdraw their consent to share their rental choices at all times.

Secondly, it requires that a consumer's consent to share information expires after 24 months, unless the consumer again chooses to "opt in."

Republicans and Democrats alike said they support the bill, and welcomed the cooperation with the Senate. Passage in the House sends it to the upper chamber, which could consider it in the coming weeks.