CNN Prevails In Video Privacy Battle

Siding with CNN, a federal judge has dismissed a potential class-action lawsuit alleging that the company's iPhone app wrongly sends information about users to the analytics company Bango.

The decision, handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Eleanor Ross in Atlanta, stemmed from Illinois resident Ryan Perry's 2014 lawsuit alleging that CNN violated the federal Video Privacy Protection Act. That law prohibits video rental companies from disclosing consumers' personally identifiable information.

Perry, who said he downloaded the app in 2013, alleged that it sent Bango information about the clips that iPhone users watch, along with their 12-digit Media Access Control addresses. (In 2014, Apple began restricting third parties from accessing MAC addresses as identifiers.)

Ross ruled last week that Perry's allegations didn't make out a violation of the law on the grounds that MAC addresses aren't "personally identifiable."

She also ruled that Perry wasn't a "consumer" for purposes of the video privacy law. "Plaintiff has not alleged that he did anything other than watch video clips on the CNN App, which he downloaded onto his iPhone for free," she wrote. "There is no indication that he had any ongoing commitment or relationship with defendants, such that he could not simply delete the CNN App without consequences."

The ruling came several months after a federal appellate court ruled in a similar lawsuit that the Video Privacy Protection Act doesn't apply when people download a free app from the Cartoon Network. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in that matter that the law only prohibits video companies from sharing personally identifiable information about "subscribers," "renters," or "purchasers."

"In our view, downloading an app for free and using it to view content at no cost is not enough to make a user of the app a 'subscriber' under the VPPA," the panel wrote in a 15-page opinion. "The downloading of an app, we think, is the equivalent of adding a particular website to one’s Internet browser as a favorite, allowing quicker access to the website’s content."

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