Viewing and Reading Records
The books you read, as well as the movies and television shows that you watch, reflect personal choices that can reveal political or religious beliefs, sexual preferences, or other personal matters that should not be made known to strangers without your consent. More and more, viewing and reading habits are recorded electronically by video rental stores, pay television services, and libraries. This growing body of records illustrates the increasing intersection of First Amendment interests in free speech and association with Fourth Amendment interests in privacy. In recent years, lawmakers have responded with strict disclosure standards to protect the privacy of these records.
What is the purpose of the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988?
The law establishes new confidentiality safeguards for records kept by video rental stores (and others who provide videos) on what movies their customers take home. The provisions enable customers whose records are disclosed without their consent to sue for damages of up to $4,000.
Are law enforcers able to obtain these records?
To obtain records under the statute, law enforcement officials must secure a court order by showing that there is "clear and convincing evidence that the subject of the information sought would be material evidence in the case." Further, the law gives an individual an opportunity to challenge the court order before records are disclosed. The "clear and convincing standard," the strongest one regulating law enforcement access to privately held files, is patterned after the confidentiality provisions of the 1984 Cable Communication Policy Act.
Does the law bar the use of customer lists held by video rental stores for marketing purposes?
Not exactly. It requires the video provider to offer customers a clearly explained choice of whether they want their