Gannett Dodges Video Privacy Claims -- For Now

An Android user who brought a high-profile video privacy class-action lawsuit against Gannett has dropped his claims, court papers reveal.

Lawyers for Massachusetts resident Alexander Yershov said in papers filed this week that he lacks the evidence to show that Gannett's USA Today app violated the federal Video Privacy Protection Act by disclosing his video viewing history, Android ID and geolocation data to Adobe.

But the "stipulation of dismissal" filed by the lawyers specifically reserves the right to bring a new video privacy case (with a different plaintiff) against Gannett.

Yershov originally alleged in a 2014 class-action complaint that Gannett violated the federal video privacy law by sharing information about Android users -- including device identifiers, geolocation data and video viewing history -- with Adobe. That law prohibits video providers from disclosing personally identifiable data about consumers' video-watching history without their consent.

Gannett argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed at an early stage on the grounds that Android device identifiers -- strings of numbers unique to each device -- aren't personally identifiable information.

Last year, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals sided against Gannett on that point. The appellate judges wrote in a decision issued in May that device identifiers combined with geolocation data could be personally identifiable.

Gannett unsuccessfully asked the appellate court to reconsider that order. The news publisher drew support from numerous outside companies and organizations, including the Interactive Advertising Bureau, The New York Times and Huffington Post. The groups argued in a friend-of-the-court brief that the appellate court's decision "risks exposing companies to broad class action liability for routine digital transactions that are essential to online content distribution."

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