Hulu Battles Users About Disclosures To Facebook

Consumers who are suing Hulu for allegedly violating their privacy are asking the judge to reject the company's contention that it didn't know that Facebook's “Like” button could automatically transmit data about users to the social networking service.

“Hulu had knowledge of what it shared, it sought legal advice regarding the implication of the disclosure, and it consciously assumed the risks of sharing information with third parties, including Facebook,” the consumers argue in recent court papers.

The plaintiffs specifically contend that some internal Hulu emails and other documents show that the company knew that it might be transmitting identifying information.

The consumers argue they have presented enough evidence about Hulu's knowledge to warrant proceeding to trial. They are asking U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler to reject Hulu's bid for summary judgment in the long-running litigation.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2011, centers on allegations that Hulu wrongly shared information with Facebook via the “Like” button, which loads automatically when users watch video on Between April of 2010 and June of 2012, the “Like” button was configured so that it transmitted titles of the videos that people watched to Facebook's server -- regardless of whether users clicked the button to indicate that they “liked” the clips. In some cases, the transmissions allegedly included viewers' Facebook User ID.

Sending that information violated the federal Video Privacy Protection Act, the consumers argue. That law prohibits movie rental companies from disclosing consumers' personally identifiable information.

Hulu argues that it's entitled to prevail on the grounds that the consumers haven't shown that any disclosures to Facebook were made knowingly -- as opposed to inadvertently. “There is no evidence suggesting that Hulu knew the mere loading of the Like button transmitted a Facebook ID with video watch information to Facebook,” the company says in papers filed last week with Beeler.

The online video company adds that the consumers have taken emails and documents “out of context to create the misimpression that there is 'evidence' about Hulu’s knowledge” of the transmissions.

Beeler is slated to hold a hearing in the case next Thursday.

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