« Netflix Makes Website Change to Put Streaming First | Main | Netflix New Releases for December 22nd, 2009 »



You have got to be friggin kidding me. Get over yourself lady.

Adam Gott

While it may be harder to turn down this class action lawsuit than the last one (1 month free) I will still pass even it if wins....


She should have never put that information on a movie review if she wanted it private. This should be thrown out of court.


Well, it's an interesting case. Jane Doe isn't alleging that she has been identified but could be identified.

Despite the U of T paper mentioned in the lawsuit where they claimed they identified two people from the contest dataset, I'm not convinced the data is easily unmasked.

As for their next data set, which includes ZIP codes, ages and gender, along with movie ratings... yeah, it will happen. Plenty of people will be identified. But it will be by people at universities trying to point out that the data is not secure. Kind of silly.

Anyway, the solution is to offer Netflix users the ability to opt-out of any research. Period.

Anyone think Netflix will go for that? I dunno. I think they should just get it over with. The 10 percent of customers who care or notice will opt-out and everyone else can go back to watching their movies.



As near as I can tell from skimming through the complaint, Jane Doe didn't put any information in a movie review - she just rated what she saw, and her ratings, along with demographic about her and other customers, were then released.

Although I am not a specialist in this area of the law, it seems to me like they have a pretty good case against Netflix on grounds of the Video Privacy Protection Act. The odds of this case being fully litigated are slim, though, and I suspect they will quickly (within a year) reach an amicable settlement, probably along the lines of what Seth outlined above - either an "opt in" or "opt out" system. That's my guess.

Sock Puppet

If the information did not specifically identify her (which isn't going to be done with demographics and ratings) then how did she get outed?

Sounds more like someone has a personal grudge against her... Just another frivolous abuse of the legal system...

Sock Puppet

Actually I have a better idea, lets all file a class action lawsuit against Jane Doe, her attorney Joseph Malley, and anyone else stupid enough to sign onto this nonsense...

Why? because their BS will cause the cost of our service to go up for no other reason then they are stupid!

Nobody cares enough about these people to waste the time identifying who they are based on out of date (almost 4 years!) information...

I actually hope that Netflix pulls out the big guns and grinds this idiotic lawsuit into the ground! AND makes the whole thing as public as they possibly (and legally) can! So much for being a closeted lesbian Jane!


I actually wish there was an easier way for me to show people my personal movie ratings. I want people to see that I thought "Kinky Boots" was an awesome movie!

However, I do see the concern in the suit. Access to personalized data was given out in an totally open contest. This wasn't inside development through a non-disclosure agreement with a third party that has a credible track record for such work. I'm sure it would make more than a few people change their minds if, say, a credit card company did an open to the public contest using 'anonymous' credit statement data. There have already been cases of accidentally leaked purchasing information that was able to be used in tracking down and identifying an individual.

People want privacy for things they aren't themselves comfortable with knowing for many reasons. There's already been a great deal of ridicule of this woman simply based upon her sexuality. I think that speaks very directly as to whether or not this suit, along with the larger issue of privacy of data, has merit.


What i hate is it wont let you delete recently watched items .. At All ! .. So if i watch some low budget amazon Jail crap my Fiancee gets to see that next time she watches some chick flick .. Not cool Netflix


Somelesbianone wants attention. More attention than she got from her relatives who clearly spend all their time looking at Netflix Prize data.


@ Prost: Shift + B ?

Didn't work in Firefox... What does that combo work in and is there one that works with firefox?



Really good point...but she made more of an issue by making this case public and might have "outed" herself even more. You 100% correct about the case and your right about it getting settled out of court..but what a waste of time this case is.


She's not outing herself. Why do you think she's called "Jane Doe" in the lawsuit?

AOL got in the same trouble when it released anonymized search records. Of course, that was a more extreme case because search history can be a lot more personal than movie reviews. But in general, anonymization is a surprisingly difficult problem -- there's always some information leakage. (Otherwise, what'd be the point of releasing the data?) Even aggregated data sometimes leaks information that can be used to identify people.

Like Seth, I rather doubt that this particular case involves any harm. It's rather hypothetical, as I understand it. But I'm tired of companies releasing data willy-nilly. Release of information should *always* be opt-in, even if it's anonymized. We need a strict line on privacy, just like Europe has.

It's not hard. Facebook just showed everyone an opt-in screen, defaulting to opt-in. Like JJH2 said, most people don't care. But you *must* give people the option to opt out of all information disclosure.

I think a free month would be a reasonable settlement. Just don't let it take four years, like the last settlement.

A Movie A Day (AMAD)

So, let's say if I rate pro-gay movies with 5 stars, therefore I must be a closet gay, while at the same time, I also rate anti-gay movies with 5 stars, therefore I must also be a closet gay-bashing person, at the same time????

Now, let's say this Jane Doe has too much time on her hands.....


It is anonymous! That means that no one knows who you are! It is just data. Netflix would never give out your personal information or data that identifies you.

This lady is grasping for straws. Get a life.



I hate to be the one to inform you but... it's ALREADY been demonstrated that, using the anonymized data handed out by Netflix in conjunction with standard data-mining techniques, that it's more than possible to specifically identify at least a certain subset of Netflix users. It's been done. And publicized. Anybody who thinks that "anonymized" data is AT ALL "safe" is living in a twilight zone.

Sock Puppet

Yeah but JJH2:

As soon as you "publicly" post anything on the Internet you are giving up your right to privacy.

Sure data mining can identify you, but you would have had to post certain data publicly somewhere else.

In the case of the data given out by NF, it was movie ratings (1-5 stars) for movie titles (the name of the movie) for members assigned a random ID (instead of Sock Puppet I'm called IDK245693P) and reviews.

Data mine all you want, unless I have publicly written the same exact review somewhere else (as was the case for what you pointed out, someone posted the exact same review at IMDB.com) there would be no way to correlate the data to come up with an actual name.

And even then, you would have to be motivated to spend the time doing so, and the excuse "But Advertisers....". I don't buy that.

I am as public as can be, I even have a website where I posted my actual address and phone number... For years...

Yet I am not bombarded with spam, or junk mail, or useless TM calls... Which means if it didn't happen to me, its not likely to happen to anybody else. Me/You/Them... Are simply NOT that special...



This may have further implications to the Netflix website... Did you notice that the "friends" ratings and recommendations area is GONE ??? It used to be on the top bar, now no more.

No more easy way to see the flicks that you have rated... or those that others have rated.



"As soon as you "publicly" post anything on the Internet you are giving up your right to privacy."

Reviewing movies on Netflix is not posting publicly on the internet.


Sock Puppet:

That's an interesting legal theory that you have, unfortunately the law, such as it is, in addition to Netflix terms of service privacy section, both disagree with you. Netflix is legally prohibited under federal law from releasing certain kinds of identifying information about people, and the issue here is whether they crossed the line. I think the plaintiffs have a pretty good chance of showing they did.


More info...

You can still get to other people's reviews via http://www.netflix.com/Community ... However, there is now a "movie privacy" link that allows you to hide movies that you have seen or reviewed from those you choose to allow as a friend.

Seems very wierd...

Sock Puppet

Reviewing movies on Netflix is not posting publicly on the internet.

I would disagree, any of 11+ million subscribers (aka "public") can read your review once you have written it. Also there are API's that can/will pull that data should you subscribe to a site that uses them, which are public sites, so once again you have posted information that can be viewed by the public.

But once again, you are not being identified directly, even a law expert said that he doubted this suit had any merit... University of Colorado law professor Paul Ohm a former Justice Department lawyer,

"Ohm did not however support a lawsuit against Netflix for the original contest, arguing the company made good faith efforts to hide identities, using a data-obfuscation technique called perturbation."

So seeing as the question is the first contest... And the former justice department university law professor doesn't support it... Well he has more experience then we do ;-)

Now the second contest? Well that one's a bit different. But Netflix could easily work around that by allowing those of us who are not paranoid to "opt in" and allow our data to be used.


@Sock Puppet

"...any of 11+ million subscribers (aka "public") can read your review once you have written it."

Based on the info provided in the Wired article, she didn't write a verbal review. She is suing over the release of her "rating" information, i.e. the number of stars given a movie. When you rate a movie, that information is not posted, along with your name, for everyone to see alongside that title in Netflix like the written reviews are.

Although all ratings for each title are averaged, Netflix does not publicly post that "Sock Monkey gave Ishtar a 5-star rating." If you want your opinion of a particular title to be "publicly" listed, you may choose to write a verbal review, which would then be listed with the others for that title. However that is your choice and apparently not one that she made.

Wilson Sweet

Isn't Blockbuster really behind this lawsuit?


That was a typo. I meant to state:

"Rating movies on Netflix is not posting publicly on the internet."

Regardless, your statement that "as soon as you 'publicly' post anything on the Internet you are giving up your right to privacy" doesn't have much bearing on this case.

Kelly Van Ryan

Maybe I'm misreading it, but how does giving Brokeback Mountain (or any gay themed movie) a positive rating translate to you being outed? Straight people can't enjoy gay movies? How ridiculous. Milk is one of my favorite movies of all time, I've rated and reviewed it on netflix and I'm a married straight woman. This "Jane Doe" seems to be just looking for some money.


I can't get over how STUPID this lawsuit is. I swear people will sue over anything and everything. This woman probably has been hounding netflix for years looking to cash in and finally found an outlet. I hope the court rejects her case and she ends up paying so many legal fees that she ends up broke and homeless. Karma, you'll get it!



Although that may be true, I suspect the opposite may be more the case; the lawyers were probably the ones looking to cash in and actively courted potential "victims" to have an excuse to file suit.

With class-action suits, the lawyers are usually the only ones who benefit in any meaningful way.


"We may also disclose and otherwise use, on an anonymous basis, movie ratings, consumption habits, commentary, reviews and other non-personal information about customers."

Those money hungry people need to GTFO. They clicked yes. Therefore, they hold no ground. It didn't say their "personal" information hence, NF did no wrong.

If they get money I can sue anyone who revealed I was a 21 year old male who took part in a survey. And I was the second one.

Juicy Couture Handbags

when i was young, i have more and more money, but some times is lost. ~~~

The comments to this entry are closed.


Third-Party Netflix Sites