I Told You So: Blockbuster Sued over Facebook Beacon

This article will take approx 1 minute to read.

In December, I wrote a post stating that Companies using Facebook Beacon as a marketing tool would get sued and demonstrated the privacy policies in effect at a number of the Beacon partners. One of those is Blockbuster, which as noted in the December post, was so over the top with it’s privacy policy. It’s, in fact, criminal, in my opinion.

Techcrunch is now reporting that Blockbuster is in fact being sued by a Texas woman who under the premise of a 1988 federal law called the Video Privacy Protection Act (18 USC § 2710) which was enacted after Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork was b0rked when video rental history was released during his confirmation hearing. The law prevents video rental companies from disclosing personally identifiable data regarding a member and his/her rental history.

Sidenote: Can someone do a LEXIS/NEXIS search for me and find out if this law has ever been upheld by the SCOTUS?

This is pretty important. Admittedly, I have not done any significant research into how Beacon works with partners since late last year, but at the time, the data was shared by identifiable email addresses. How else do you associate a users partner activity with a Facebook account?

This flew in the face of their privacy policy which stated:

Blockbuster will not provide User or Member e-mail addresses to business partners, unless the User or Member has provided express permission to Blockbuster.

Regardless of whether a Facebook user has opted in or out of Beacon advertising within Facebook, express opt-in is required on the Blockbuster side. And at the time, and pertinent to this lawsuit, even with consent it is criminal for video rental companies to share this kind of data, per 18 USC § 2710.

Stick around Technosailor for more of what you need to know. ;-)

Update: Online Media Daily writes, “But the Beacon platform still allegedly transmits information about people’s activity from Blockbuster to Facebook, unless they have checked a box telling Blockbuster to never send such information.” Enough said.

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