Viacom Defends Nick.com Privacy Practices, Asks Judge To Toss Lawsuit

Viacom is asking a federal judge to rule that the company didn't violate New Jersey privacy standards by allowing Google's DoubleClick to set cookies on the kids' site Nick.com.

"Viacom did not collect information about what websites or advertisements individual Nick.com users viewed, either within or outside Nick.com, nor did it collect any other Nick.com user information using cookies," Viacom argues in a motion filed this week.

The company is seeking summary judgment in a class-action privacy complaint brought on behalf of a group of children.

Viacom argues in new court papers that it only collected "anonymous" registration data from kids, including their genders and birth dates.

At the same time, the company acknowledges that Google's DoubleClick set cookies at Nick.com, but says DoubleClick did so in order to serve ads at Nick.com. Viacom also argues that it lacked the ability to control data collection by DoubleClick.

"Google utilized its third-party cookies in order to provide advertising on Nick.com, but Viacom did not have any control of any of the information collected using Google’s DoubleClick cookies," Viacom argues in papers filed this week with U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Chesler in New Jersey.

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The company's new arguments come several months after a federal appellate court revived a lawsuit on behalf of Nick.com visitors that accused Viacom of engaging in "intrusion upon seclusion" -- a broad privacy concept that the appeals court described as "a type of invasion of privacy involving encroachment on a person’s reasonable expectations of solitude."

The appellate judges pointed to Nick.com's statements on its Web site, which told visitors the company doesn't collect personal information about kids. "We think that a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that Viacom’s promise not to collect 'ANY personal information' from children itself created an expectation of privacy with respect to browsing activity on the Nickelodeon website," the panel wrote.

Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman accused Viacom of violating a federal privacy law by allowing outside companies to track children who visited Nick.com and NickJr.com. Viacom agreed to pay $500,000 to settle those allegations.

The company now argues in the class-action lawsuit that the settlement with Schneiderman is irrelevant to whether Viacom itself -- as opposed to outside companies -- intentionally violated kids' privacy. "As the focus of the NYAG settlement was on third-party behavior, it is not relevant to the intrusion claim," Viacom contends.

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