Gannett Asks Appeals Court To Reconsider App Privacy Ruling

Gannett is asking a federal appellate court to reconsider its recent decision to revive a privacy lawsuit against the company.

The ruling could "derail the rapidly evolving Internet video economy," Gannett says in papers filed Friday with the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.

"The Panel’s decision puts at risk every free Internet-based website, App and service offering videos that shares any information regarding unregistered, unknown visitors," the company adds.

The decision, issued late last month, reinstated a potential class-action lawsuit filed by Massachusetts resident Alexander Yershov. He alleged in a 2014 complaint that the USA Today app for Android violates the Video Privacy Protection Act by transmitting device identifiers, geolocation data and video viewing history to Adobe. That law prohibits video companies from sharing personally identifiable information about "subscribers" with third parties.



Gannett argued that the case should be dismissed at an early stage for two reasons. The company contended that Android device identifiers -- a string of numbers unique to each device -- are not personally identifiable information. The company also says people who download a free app aren't "subscribers."

A trial judge dismissed the case, but a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit unanimously revived the potential class-action lawsuit.

Gannett now is asking the 1st Circuit to reconsider, arguing that the judges used a "novel standard" for defining personally identifiable information.

The appellate judges said in the ruling that device identifiers combined with geo-location data could be personally identifiable, even though that data doesn't include users' names.

The opinion pointed to allegations that Adobe has additional information enabling it to link data like GPS addresses and device identifiers to particular names, addresses and phone numbers. But the judges also noted that additional development of the case -- including whether Adobe "foreseeably can identify" users -- might result in dismissal at a later date.

But Gannett says its potential liability shouldn't depend on whether other parties, like Adobe, may be able to identify users. "This new standard lacks any limiting principle," Gannett argues. "Thus, even if a website or App has no information about who its visitors are, any piece of information it discloses about them could result in a statutory violation."

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