Privacy Law

Circuits split on privacy rights for video views and third-party data sharing

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Sharing consumer data derived from their online video views could violate privacy rights, the Boston-based 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

The class action involves individuals who downloaded the USA Today app, reports. The Gannett Co., which owns USA Today, shared users’ information with Adobe.

A similar case out of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reached a different conclusion. In that case, involving a Cartoon Network app, the court found (PDF) that company did not violate the Video Privacy Protection Act when it shared consumer data with Bango, an analytics company.

The law prohibits companies from sharing information that identifies subscribers with third parties, and the 11th Circuit found that the plaintiff did not subscribe to the Cartoon Network app, which is free. In the USA Today case, the court found that the plaintiff, who also used a free app, was a subscriber.

“To use the app, Yershov did indeed have to provide Gannett with personal information, such as his Android ID and his mobile device’s GPS location at the time he viewed a video, each linked to his viewing selections,” the court wrote (PDF). “While he paid no money, access was not free of a commitment to provide consideration in the form of that information, which was of value to Gannett.”

Also, the 1st Circuit found that identifiers didn’t have to include users’ names, to violate their privacy. Geo-location data with device identifiers were enough.

“Imagine Gannett had disclosed that a person viewed 146 videos on a single device at two sets of specified GPS coordinates,” the court wrote. “Given how easy it is to locate a GPS coordinate on a street map, this disclosure would enable most people to identify what are likely the home and work addresses of the viewer.”

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