Movie rental mogul Netflix is settling a class-action lawsuit after it was accused of breaking an obscure law written long before the Internet by keeping track of the viewing histories of customers who had canceled their service.
In this digital age, it seems someone is keeping track of just about everything -- but a law that has been protecting video rental histories for 24 years is now changing the way the online company does business.
Virtually everything online leaves a trail of ones and zeros behind, but when it comes to Netflix, deleting details of long-canceled accounts is not as easy as clearing your browser history.
"They keep all that rental history because that's valuable information that they use to serve up suggestions to other customers," explained Justin Kwong, an Internet law professor.
The movie rental and streaming giant saves the viewing history of more than 25 million users -- along with their customers' personal information, but Netflix was accused of keeping and sharing that information long after some customers dropped out of the service despite the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988, which makes it illegal to share someone's video viewing history.
That law was enacted after Judge Robert Bork's video rental history was leaked to the press during his failed Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
"What I do should be private, but I understand the world we live in today," Netflix user Matt Welle told FOX 9 News. "It's not necessarily the case."
That's largely because of those pesky online agreements, which usually give away more rights than they protect -- especially if the service is free.
"When something is free, it's not the product. You are," Kwong explained. "They're using my information to serve me ads."
Netflix has denied any wrongdoing, but it has agreed to delete user information a year after they terminate their service. The company will also pay a $9 million fine.