May 28, 2015 sica A

VPPA applied to online streaming

Video Privacy Protection Act or VPPA is a law passed in 1988 and designed for video tapes. Courts are starting to define companies’ obligations to stream media under VPPA. This law prohibits any person who’s engaged in the rental, sale or delivery of pre-recorded audio visual materials or video cassette tapes business from disclosing a consumer’s “personally identifiable information” or PII to third parties without their consent.

Here’s a recent case that illustrates how VPPA may apply to digital video or online streaming services:

The VPPA requires a “knowing” disclosure

There is one case against Hulu where they were allegedly disclosing user identities and viewing selections to Facebook when a user clicked the “Like” button.

How it works         

Once a Hulu user clicks the Facebook “Like” button, the user data is automatically sent to Facebook. It uses a “c_user” cookie which contains the user’s Facebook ID. Hulu also sent URLs of a user’s “watch pages” that identifies their video requests for the purpose of telling Facebook where to send the code related to its “Like” button.

Then Facebook combined both sets of information which allows them to piece together the identity and viewing history of a user. However, Hulu argued that Facebook’s action was without their knowledge, which therefore means they did not violate the VPPA. On this basis, a district court in the Northern District of California agreed with Hulu on March 31, 2015.

The law will continue to evolve and developments are expected to happen. As for this one, the outcomes are favourable for online streaming services under the VPPA. And this is only one of the privacy laws that may apply to a given streaming service.


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