courtThere is a class-action lawsuit saying that there is illegal tracking of kids’ web browsing and video-view habits.  Google has been released from the action by the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals  For Google, this is good news, as it’s one less legal issue they have do deal with, but Viacom, the owner of Nickelodeon and associated websites, didn’t get so lucky.  They’re still on the hook.

The case’s plaintiffs were kids under 13 (along with their families) alleged that defendants, Google and Viacom, had been collecting information about viewing and browsing behavior on Viacom’s websites.  This was in violation of state privacy laws and the federal Video Privacy Protection Act.

The latter was passed in 1988 in response to publication of the then US Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental history by the Washington Post.  This makes illegal any “disclosure of personally identifying information relating to viewers’ consumption of video-related services.”

Viacom promised that, with its child-oriented websites, it wouldn’t collect kid’s personal information: “HEY GROWN-UPS: We don’t collect ANY personal information about your kids.  Which means we couldn’t share it even if we wanted to!”  There were cookies that were used to collect and convey kids’ browsing and video-watching behavior though.  Google even received that data for the purpose of ad-serving and targeting.

According to the opinion below, the Third Court held that plaintiffs weren’t able to sue Google since “the Act permits the plaintiffs to sue only entities that disclose protected information, not parties, such as Google, alleged to be mere recipients of it.”  As Viacom collected and disclosed the information to Google, it was then subjected to liability for the violation of the federal statute, as well as some potential state privacy laws.

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