Definition

Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988

Contributor(s): Ben Cole

The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 is United States legislation that prevents wrongful disclosure of an individual's personally identifiable information stemming from their rental or purchase of audiovisual material, including videotapes, DVDs and video games. The U.S. Congress passed the act after Robert Bork had his video rental history published during his Supreme Court nomination process.

The Act is designed to protect consumer privacy by preventing audiovisual service providers from disclosing a customer's information "outside of normal business practices." It also specifies that this audiovisual customer information may only be disclosed to a law enforcement agency if it relates to a warrant issued under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, an equivalent state warrant, a grand jury subpoena or a court order.

In recent years, the rise of social media and online movie-rental businesses has led to lawsuits citing violations of the Video Privacy Protection Act. Facebook, Blockbuster and Netflix have all been named in lawsuits claiming unlawful release of customer records in violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act.

In November 2012, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that updated both the Video Privacy Protection Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The new legislation would provide additional privacy safeguards for email and other electronic communications. The bill also updates the Video Privacy Protection Act by allowing videotape service providers to obtain a customer's informed, written consent to share video-viewing information. An amendment offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) states that customers must opt in to any video-sharing agreement, and that any advanced consent to share video-viewing information must be renewed after two years.

This was last updated in December 2012

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