Class-action privacy suit against Hulu to proceed

Michelle Clancy | 24-12-2013

Privacy and targeted advertising is getting another test: The class-action lawsuit against Hulu over the alleged illegal sharing of users' viewing history with Facebook and business metrics company comScore will continue.

Hulu had tried to argue that viewers needed to show actual injury to recover damages—a premise that U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler has rejected.

Several people in California, Illinois and New York said that Hulu let third-party marketers track their video choices without permission, and are seeking damages of at least $2,500 per violation, plus punitive damages and other sums.

The Plaintiffs sought to qualify as "aggrieved" persons under the 1988 the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), which was originally adopted after failed Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental choices were made public. Hulu said that the law "was not adopted to impose multi-billion dollar liability on the transmission of anonymous data where no one suffers any actual injury."

Beeler, however, concluded that "the statute requires only injury in the form of a wrongful disclosure.”The lawsuit alleges that Hulu sent data without permission to comScore and in the case of Facebook, that it sent

"Facebook IDs that linked their video choices to personally identifiable Facebook registration information."Hulu has one more chance: it claims that it didn’t know that it was sending along protected information or violating the VPPA. A hearing on that is scheduled for 6 February, 2014.