As reported by the Register, Facebook’s “Beacon” program, through which advertisers like Blockbuster send information about a customer’s off-Facebook activity for posting on that customer’s Facebook page, has drawn a firestorm of criticism.
In the Dallas lawsuit, the plaintiff sued Blockbuster for sending movie rental information which was posted on the plaintiff’s Facebook page. The plaintiff alleged violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act, which forbids disclosure of personally identifiable rental information unless the customer gives specific consent in writing.
Valid agreements require “consideration” (something of value) from all parties. If one party can unilaterally control whether or not it will perform its part, that party’s consideration can be found “illusory” and the contract invalid. According to Judge Lyne, Blockbuster’s ability to change the agreement’s terms anytime made Blockbuster’s consideration illusory.
- State clearly that any changes will be prospective only (not retroactive).
- Include procedures to e-mail registered users notifying them of any modifications.
- If a change is made, show the new terms and require consent on sign-in. Make clear that the user has the choice to cancel the agreement if they wish not to agree to the changes.
- Facebook CEO capitulates (again) on Beacon (The Register, 12/2007)
- The Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) (Electronic Privavy Information Center)
- Blockbuster’s Online Terms and Conditions (Blockbuster.com)
- Terms and Conditions for Your Website (FindLaw)
- Privacy Rights (provided by Williams and Barber