According to the Hollywood Reporter, on Tuesday Hulu was victorious in its four year class action lawsuit. The litigation centered on the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988, which prohibits the disclosure of an individual’s purchases or uses of audio visual materials. According to the plaintiffs, Hulu violated the Act by allowing Hulu users to click a Facebook “like” button while watching programming on Hulu’s site, which triggered the transmission of a Facebook ID cookie and the current web page address to Facebook.
Earlier in the suit, it appeared the judge might side with the plaintiffs as Hulu’s arguments, which asserted that the plaintiffs’ failed to claim an actual injury and analogized to sharing information with third parties for advertising purposes, were rejected. However, ultimately, it was Hulu’s argument based on knowledge that won the case.
Hulu claimed that it did not “knowingly” share its customers’ viewing patterns with Facebook. Using this line of reasoning, US District Judge Laurel Beeler agreed that Hulu could not know that Facebook would combine the two distinct separate strings of code (the web page address and Facebook cookie) to identify a user. Even though the codes were sent simultaneously, because Hulu sent them separately, Hulu did not purposefully disclose user information. It also seems that the court considered that the average user is aware of how their information will be shared upon clicking the “Like” button.
Therefore, currently, it seems the VPPA does not reach online viewing habits.