The Wall Street Journal's Roku app doesn't violate a federal video privacy law, Dow Jones says in new court papers.
The company is asking U.S. District Court Judge Steven Jones in
Atlanta to dismiss a lawsuit brought in March by Georgia resident Terry Locklear. She alleged that the news company's Roku app violates the federal Video Privacy Protection Act by automatically
transmitting information about the Wall Street Journal Live clips that users view -- along with the serial number of their Roku devices -- to the analytics and video ad company mDialog.
The federal video privacy law prohibits video rental companies from revealing consumers' personally identifiable information without their written consent.
Dow Jones says in its legal papers that Locklear's complaint, “falls woefully short of stating a claim.”
Among other arguments, the company says that any data about Roku devices is “anonymous” and can't be tied to people's names. “The VPPA only prohibits disclosure of 'personally identifiable information,'” the company argues. “A serial number identifies a device -- not a 'person,' ” the company argues.
Locklear contended in her complaint that a Roku's serial number is a “persistent identifier” that can be matched with users' identities to reveal “a wealth of extremely precise information” about them.
It's not yet clear how courts will view the allegation that transmitting a Roku's serial number can violate users' privacy. University of Minnesota law professor William McGeveran previously told Online Media Daily that the case could hinge on what additional data is sent to the analytics company.
Dow Jones also contends that Locklear isn't a “consumer” of Wall Street Journal streams because she doesn't pay for them. “A subscriber in the commercial setting means someone who pays money to receive a publication regularly,” the company argues.
The online video service Hulu raised a similar argument in a lawsuit in California, but the judge presiding over that case rejected Hulu's stance.
The lawsuit against Dow Jones is one of several recent cases alleging that companies that offer online video violate the Video Privacy Protection Act. That statute, which is one of the only national privacy laws, was passed in 1988 after a Washington newspaper obtained the video rental history of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.