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Jan. 21 — Children using Viacom Inc. websites failed to state claims that the company covertly collected their personal information and shared it with Google Inc., a federal district court ruled Jan. 20, dismissing the case for good.
The named plaintiffs failed to allege new facts in support of their claim under the Video Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2710, which make it plausible that the information collected identifies them, Judge Stanley R. Chesler of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey said in an unpublished opinion.
In analyzing the allegations of the second consolidated class action complaint, the court relied substantially on its July 2014 ruling dismissing many of the claims.
The plaintiffs, who are children younger than 13, alleged that Viacom collects information about users who visit its websites, such as Nick.com, either through the secret installation of cookies on users' computers or when a user watches a video. Viacom then shares that information with Google or allows Google to access it, the plaintiffs alleged.
At the same time, Google also collects information about the website users using its own cookies without the users' consent, the plaintiffs alleged.
Both companies use this information to target the plaintiffs with advertising, according to the court.
The court said that the plaintiffs failed to cure the deficiencies outlined in its earlier ruling and dismissed the claims with prejudice.
The court said that “nothing on the face of the VPPA or its legislative history suggest that ‘personally identifiable information' ('PII') includes information such as anonymous user IDs, gender and age, or data about a user's computer.”
“Nothing in the amended Complaint changes the fact that Viacom's disclosure does not—‘without more'—identify individual persons,” the court said, quoting its earlier ruling. The plaintiffs also failed to allege that Google has the ability to, and does identify, the plaintiffs, the court said.
It also expressed doubt over whether the New Jersey Computer Related Offenses Act, N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:38A-1 to - 6, applies to non-computer hacking situations. Even if the statute applied, the plaintiffs failed to allege any damages from the use of their PII, the court said.
In addition, the court dismissed an intrusion upon seclusion claim, finding that the collection and disclosure of anonymous browsing history and other information doesn't constitute “highly offensive” behavior.
Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy LLP and Bartimus Frickleton Robertson & Goza PC served as co-lead counsel for the named plaintiffs. Sills Cummis & Gross PC and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC represented Google. Blank Rome LLP and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP represented Viacom.
Full text of the court's opinion is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/IN_RE_NICKELODEON_CONSUMER_PRIVACY_LITIGATION_No_2443_SRC_2015_BL.
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