Hollywood movies: Coming to a Facebook page near you

Want to rent Batman: The Dark Knight? You can now do it via Facebook. More movies may follow. A box office smash? Not exactly.

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My question: What happens to all that information it gathers about the movies we watch? By default, the Watch Dark Knight app access all the information you’ve shared with “Everyone.” If your profile is wide open, that means everything.

dark knight app permissions

Strangely, home video rentals are one of the exceedingly rare places in US life covered by their own privacy law – the Video Privacy Protection Act, aka the infamous Bork law, enacted after dumpster diving reporters revealed the Blockbuster habits of would-be Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. (Nothing exciting to report, I’m afraid.) Shortly thereafter, Congress passed a law making the titles of movies you’ve rented at Blockbuster et al private, to be revealed only with your consent or a legal court order.

As far as I know, no court has ever tested whether that law applies to video downloads and streaming. (If one of my 17 devoted readers knows otherwise, I’d love to hear about it.)

Nonetheless, even if the Bork law applies, Facebook has access to information about you that probably no other Internet entity has. So even if they never reveal what movies you watch, they can certainly take the information you’ve shared – including the movies you’ve rented – and sell that to the studios (so that you see trailers for the next Batman movie, for example), companies selling ancillary products (Batman action figures), events involving spandex-wearing superheroes (tickets to ComicCon, anyone?), and so on. That’s where the real money is to be made, not in taking a thin slice out of a $3 sale.

And if your cinematic tastes run more towards Naughty Nuns in Bondage, one can only imagine the kinds of ads you might see.

Only Google has anything approaching the volume of data Facebook has about you, and it’s incomplete and scattered among a dozen different services. Do you really want Facebook to know what movies you like, too?

ITworld TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan has never rented a movie about naughty nuns, but he understands they can be habit forming. Yes, it does get worse – see  eSarcasm (Geek Humor Gone Wild) for evidence of that, or follow him on Twitter:@tynan_on_tech.

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