Google Wins Case Related to Children’s Privacy; Viacom Still Faces One Claim

Google- Viacom-Children's Privacy

Google and Viacom won an appeal in the class action case filed by parents nationwide claiming that both companies violated children’s privacy by illegally using cookies to track their browsing and video watching habits on the Nickelodeon website.

Google- Viacom-Children's Privacy

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third District in Philadelphia dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim that Google and Viacom were accountable for planting cookies in children’s computers to gather data for target advertising.

The plaintiffs alleged that Viacom discloses to Google a child’s username/alias, gender, birthdate, browser settings, unique device identifier, operating system, screen resolution, and browser version. Viacom also shares the child’s web communications including but not limited to detailed URL requests and video materials requested and obtained from its children’s websites and the DoubleClick persistent cookie identifiers.  Google then collects and tracks the children’s online activities.

Court’s ruling on the case against Google, Viacom

Circuit Judge Julio Fuentes wrote in the ruling, “Several of the plaintiff’s claims are no longer viable after Google. These included their claims under the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, and the California Invasion Privacy Act. The Plaintiffs’ claim under New Jersey Computer Related Offenses Act is also unavailing.”

Additionally, Judge Fuentes stated that the plaintiffs also failed to state a claim under the Video Privacy Protection Act. He explained that their complaint against Google failed because the law allows them to “sue only entities that disclose protected information. The plaintiffs cannot sue parties, such as Google that are mere recipients of information.

Furthermore, Fuentes said the plaintiffs claim against Viacom also failed because the “definition of personally identifiable information in the law does not extend to the kind of static digital identifiers allegedly disclosed by Viacom to Google.

Viacom will still face the plaintiff’s claim against it for intrusion upon seclusion. The Court of Appeals ruled that it will remand it for further proceedings.

Fuentes explained, “The plaintiffs have adequately alleged that Viacom collected personal information about children despite its promise not to do so, and we further believe that a reasonable jury could conclude that Viacom’s conduct in breach of its promise was highly offensive under New Jersey law.”

The ruling of the Court of Appeals upheld the decision of U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler in Newark, New Jersey in January 2015.  He will preside on the last standing claim against Viacom.

Viacom is confident to win the remaining claim

In a statement, Viacom spokesman Jeremy Zweig said the company is pleased with the decision of the Court of Appeals. He also said the company is confident that will win the remaining claim.

“Nickelodeon is proud of its record on children’s privacy issues and strongly committed to the best practices in the industry,” added Zweig.

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