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Class action alleging Hulu violated privacy rights is thrown out

On Behalf of | Apr 2, 2015 | Business Litigation |

For many dedicated television watchers, the viewing medium of choice is no longer the satellite dish or the cable box, but rather the Internet. Specifically, many people are now choosing to watch their favorite shows via subscriptions to various video streaming services.

Interestingly enough, Hulu, one of the leading providers of video streaming services, was recently named in a proposed federal class action lawsuit alleging that it had violated the privacy rights of its customers.

According to the complaint, Hulu violated the Video Privacy Protection Act by sharing the viewing histories of the plaintiffs with the social media giant Facebook without their knowledge, an action that enabled Facebook friends to see what they had been watching and facilitated unwanted advertising from various marketers.

For those unfamiliar with the VPPA, it was enacted back in 1988 in response to a newspaper that used a list provided by a local video store to pen an article about the video rental history of Robert Bork, an unsuccessful nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition to punitive damages, the proposed class action against Hulu sought as much as $2,500 per violation.

In recent developments, the presiding judge granted Hulu’s motion for summary judgment earlier this week, writing that the plaintiffs had failed to provide sufficient evidence that the streaming service giant knew that the information it was sending to Facebook would reveal their viewing histories.

Specifically, in dismissing the lawsuit with prejudice, the judge held that the present case was distinguishable from the case involving Bork, as Hulu sent the identities of users and the identity of the content they were watching separately, such that they were not immediately connected as was the case involving the former high court nominee.

The attorneys for the plaintiffs have already indicated that they will appeal the decision, claiming that “the opinion undermines the express statutory protections provided by the VPPA.”

Stay tuned for updates on this legally complex and fascinating business law case …