end of privacy

Senate Forgot to Include a Provision, Can Still Read Your E-mails

Legislation as old as the word processor. Photo: Central Press/Getty Images

In all the holiday hullabaloo, Congress sent President Obama a bill that would allow Netflix users to seamlessly post their viewing choices on Facebook, changing the Video Privacy Protection Act originally passed in 1988. Easy peasy, right? Almost. They also left out the amendment that would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before reading our e-mail.

According to CNET, the story goes that Congress adopted the VPPA after failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental history was published by the Washington City Paper during confirmation hearings in ‘88. (In strange timing, Bork died last week at age 85.) Cut to present day, when Netflix lobbied to have the law changed, “granting the public the right to automatically display on their Facebook feeds what they’re watching on Netflix.”

The president is expected to “promptly sign” the amendment, which the House passed last year, still leaving us with lack of e-mail privacy, though. BuzzFeed explained: “Currently, private email that has been stored by a third party for more than 180 days can be accessed by the government without a warrant” — which means just about everything, since no one that we know of has ever stored e-mail on a hard drive.

Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, is understandably upset. He told Wired: “If Netflix is going to get an update to the privacy law, we think the American people should get an update to the privacy law.”

While we hold our breath on that, be on the lookout for Netflix to “introduce new social features” in 2013 once Obama has signed the bill.

Government Can Still Read Your E-mails