HBO Faces Class-Action Lawsuit for Allegedly Sharing Subscriber Data with Facebook

Image: HBO Max

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 class-action lawsuit alleges HBO is sharing data without consent from subscribers. It states that HBO, as an advertiser on Facebook, is aware that the social media platform can combine the data to advertise itself to subscribers. Furthermore, the lawsuit states that “a standard privacy policy will not suffice.”

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.

Source: Variety

Peter Brosdahl
As a child of the 70’s I was part of the many who became enthralled by the video arcade invasion of the 1980’s. Saving money from various odd jobs I purchased my first computer from a friend of my dad, a used Atari 400, around 1982. Eventually it would end up being a lifelong passion of upgrading and modifying equipment that, of course, led into a career in IT support.

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