A judge on Friday ruled that video streaming website Hulu must face a privacy lawsuit that alleges the site shared info with Facebook and analytics company comScore. The judge rejected the claim that plaintiffs needed to show actual injury in order for the lawsuit to proceed.
The lawsuit hinges on an antiquated law, the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act, that safeguards the privacy of video renters. It was enacted as a direct response to the publication of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork's video rental history.
According to Reuters:
They [the plaintiffs] claimed that Hulu sent such information to Scorecard Research, a comScore market research unit, and sent "Facebook IDs that linked their video choices to personally identifiable Facebook registration information."
Oh no! Now Facebook has records that you've secretly been watching every single episode of Dads at work.
This isn't the first type of this lawsuit—in 2008, someone sued Blockbuster for similar reasons—but the VPPA has been relaxed in recent years, thanks to pressure from the tech industry. In 2011, Netflix CEO made an awkward appearance at a Facebook press conference, announcing integration between the two companies everywhere except the U.S. At the start of the year, President Obama signed an amendment to the law allowing companies to disclose data with user consent.
It's unclear if Hulu has obtained that consent. Still, the singling out of video in today's day and age seems odd—particularly when different rules apply to music streaming services like Spotify. They've never had substantial legal issues with Facebook integration and one could hypothetically listen to Pitbull and Ke$ha's "Timber" a bunch of times on repeat and notify all of their friends. Now that should be illegal.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.