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See what friends watch on Netflix through Facebook

A new Netflix feature allows users to share viewing habits and monitor what their Facebook friends are watching. 

By Matthew Shaer / March 13, 2013

A new Netflix feature (see left rail) will allow you to monitor what your friends are watching – and share your viewing habits with the world.

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Earlier this year, Congress amended the Video Privacy Protection Act to allow video rental companies to share information about their customers' viewing habits – provided, of course, that the customers gave their consent.

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Among the first to take advantage of the amendment will be Netflix, which announced today that it would partner with Facebook on a new social sharing feature. 

The whole thing is pretty simple: If you're a Facebook user and a Netflix user, you can announce to the world the kinds of content you're watching on Netflix, or keep tabs on what your friends are watching. 

But in a blog post, Cameron Johnson, the director of product innovation at Netflix, stressed that the feature will be strictly optional. 

"By default, sharing will only happen on Netflix," Johnson wrote. "You'll see what titles your friends have watched in a new 'Watched by your friends' row and what they have rated four or five stars in a new 'Friends’ Favorites' row. Your friends will also be able to see what you watch and rate highly."

If you don't want to share any of your recent views, you can toggle a switch in the account settings, and your movie-watching habits will not be shared with the world. Alternatively, by clicking the "Don't Share This" button in the player, you can choose not to broadcast a specific title. "You are in control of what gets shared," Johnson explained

In other words, you can flip the switches so it appears to the outside world that the only thing you've watched in recent weeks are high-minded documentaries such as "5 Broken Cameras." As for your four-day long binge on old episodes of "Cheers" and "Doctor Who" – well, you can keep that stuff to yourself. 

It's worth noting here that the whole partnership is very good news for Facebook, which now has an additional way to build profiles of its users – profiles that can be handed over to advertisers. (See our report on a new academic study on what Facebook "likes" say about us.) 

In related news, Netflix stock jumped 4 percent in trading early Wednesday morning. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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