With the advent of all of these social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, online privacy becomes a big issue. Some people stay off these tools all together in fear of sharing too much information with the World Wide Web. For instance, on Facebook, you can find my birthday, the school and year that I graduated from college, my girlfriend’s name, and even my job title, email address, and iChat screen name. This information is private and relates only to me for the most part, but it was my decision to put this content on the website therefore I am taking full responsibility of it being on there.
In an effort to shut the doors of the video and game rental (and now book rental) store Blockbuster I have been using Netflix and Redbox for a few years now. It might just be me but I would much rather pay $1 for a DVD rental than the $8 that Blockbuster charges. And with Netflix I pay $9 a month and have a rotating DVD at my apartment all the time as well as the ability to watch a huge and always growing collection of media online. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have even integrated an interface to be able to watch all of my Netflix from the console.
Blockbuster is on Facebook too. When you sign up to be a member of Blockbuster I would venture to say that the majority of you do not read the fine print. I know I don’t. Of course, until I read a story today about a woman who is suing Blockbuster for sharing too much of her private information on Facebook. This woman claims that Blockbuster shared personal information, including her full name and what films she was renting, on the website.
This is absolutely genius from Blockbuster’s point of view. They are using a free tool in Facebook to generate unique content and to increase interest of their services. Sure, they are overpriced and have a weak selection of movies and video games (and are usually out of the hot titles that I care about in the first place) but this is a way to hopefully increase traffic through their doors and to keep their heads above water. Earlier this year they actually closed 500 stores across the United States in an effort to stay out of bankruptcy.
The lady that is suing Blockbuster, and also Facebook at the same time for the same situation, is saying that these services need to respect people’s privacy by not sharing this information. But the contracts that you sign by being able to rent movies at Blockbuster and the profile that you create on Facebook make this information open for public discussion.
Facebook has actually found themselves in a similar situation before. Last year, around this time of year, a family was on vacation over seas. They were traveling around a remote area in a foreign country when all of a sudden they saw a picture on a grocery store advertisement that made them feel right at home. At a bus stop this family saw a billboard advertising this grocery store and on the side of it had a picture of a family. This family was in fact close friends of the world travelers.
The family that was on the picture contacted Facebook in hopes of pressing charges for invasion of privacy. Facebook made them aware of the agreement that you agree to when creating your account and was clean of all charges. The grocery store eventually took the advertisement down out of respect for the family, but no criminal charges could be pressed due to that contract.
That is exactly what will happen in this situation. Facebook even has the ability to control your account through privacy settings adding one more layer to cover themselves on cases like this. The lady that is suing these two mega companies is fighting a losing battle. She will get a lot of media attention, sure, but she will spend a lot of money that she could have saved by reading the contract in the first place. She also stated that the films she was renting were nothing to be ashamed of, but it was the invasion of her privacy. If the films were nothing to be ashamed of then what is the big deal? And I could look your name up in the phone book. But what if the movies she was renting were something to be ashamed of? Well, if that is the case maybe she should take a look at her rental history. (By the way, when was the last time you went to Blockbuster and saw a film on the shelf, turned to your significant other, and said, “You know, that is just rude and crude. I would be ashamed to rent that.”)