A class-action lawsuit filed on Tuesday alleges HBO of sharing subscriber viewing history with Facebook. The lawsuit was filed in New York on behalf of two subscribers, Angel McDaniel and Constance Simon, by law firm Bursor & Fisher. It accuses HBO of violating the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA).
The VPPA came about after a Washington Post reporter was easily able to obtain the video rental history of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in 1987. Mr. Bork was a “strict constitutionalist” who did not believe individuals were guaranteed privacy protections if they were not written into law. Shortly after his own video rental history became public, the VPPA was passed.
Bursor & Fisher has an extensive history of class-action payments and settlements that are displayed on its website. They include Playboy, Kotex, Zicam, Hearst, Consumer Reports, Robocalls, and Sprint. Some PC enthusiasts may even remember it from the lawsuit against NVIDIA regarding the GeForce GTX 970. That lawsuit was about the advertised VRAM for the GPU. Needless to say, the law firm has experience in going after larger companies and corporations with class-action lawsuits.
This will not be the first time Facebook has been listed in litigation, or even in getting laws changed, regarding video services. From streaming to videotapes, its name has come up before.
- 2008: The once king of videotape rentals, Blockbuster, faced a class-action suit for sharing rental information with Facebook’s advertising project called Beacon.
- 2011: Netflix, following a lawsuit of its own in 2009, excludes the U.S. when rolling out its own Facebook sharing option. It later successfully pursues in getting the law amended in 2012.
- 2015: Hulu had a case ruled in its favor regarding whether or not it knew that Facebook was combining user data with viewing information.