Netflix goes social, turns on Facebook integration for U.S. subscribers

Ever wanted to know what your former college roommates are watching on Netflix? Now you’ve got your chance: Netflix (s NFLX) plans to turn on its Facebook (s FB) integration for U.S. subscribers Wednesday, allowing them to share their viewing behavior with their Facebook friends and get social recommendations for what to watch next. The integration followed some political wrangling about a little-known 1980s privacy law.

Subscribers who opt in will see what their friends watch and like (click to enlarge).

Subscribers who opt in will see what their friends watch and like (click to enlarge).

U.S.-based Netflix subscribers can now connect their Facebook account to the video service, and then be able to view dedicated categories called “Friends’ Favorites” and “Watched by your friends” on the Netflix website as well as through the company’s apps on mobile and connected devices. Viewers can also opt into sharing all of their viewing behavior on Facebook’s website.
The company said on its blog Wednesday morning that it will eventually offer additional social sharing functionality:

“The Netflix social features will evolve with new capabilities being tested regularly. Upcoming tests include capabilities to allow members to explicitly share their favorite titles on Facebook and discuss with their friends.”

There are some privacy provisions that are supposed to prevent over-sharing: Subscribers who opt into sharing their viewing data with Facebook can prevent the sharing of a title “by clicking Don’t Share This during the first few minutes of playback on most devices,” according to a Netflix help page. Titles that have already been shared can also be unshared — but cautious users may just want to turn off sharing altogether before they embark on some late-night B-movie binge viewing.
Netflix first rolled out its Facebook integration in Canada and Latin America in late 2011, but bringing the feature to the U.S. was complicated by a 15 year-old privacy law called the Video Privacy Protection Act. That law was meant to prevent video rental stores from releasing data about the VHS tapes a customer rented, but it also prevented Netflix from sharing data with one’s Facebook friends.
Netflix lobbied heavily to change the law, and Congress eventually amended it earlier this year, giving Netflix an opportunity to add Facebook integration for its U.S. customers as well.