Epoch Times Can't Shake Video Privacy Suit

An Epoch Times subscriber can proceed with a lawsuit accusing the conservative newspaper of violating a federal privacy law by disclosing people's video-viewing information to Facebook, a judge ruled Thursday.

The decision, issued by U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein in New York, comes in a lawsuit filed in July by Massachusetts resident Lawrence Czarnionka.

Czarnionka, a Facebook user as well as a subscriber to the right-wing paper, alleged in a class-action complaint that the newspaper “disclosed digital subscribers’ identities and the specific online video materials they obtained or requested” to Facebook.

He claimed that the alleged disclosures violate the Video Privacy Protection Act -- a 1988 law that prohibits video companies from sharing personally identifiable information about subscribers, renters, or purchasers of videos.

Czarnionka alleged that Epoch Times' site included tracking code from Facebook that transmitted subscribers' Facebook IDs -- a numeric sequence linked to people's Facebook profiles -- along with titles of videos that people watched on Epoch's site.

Epoch Times urged Hellerstein to dismiss the lawsuit at an early stage for several reasons.

Among others, the publisher said any information allegedly disclosed wasn't personally identifiable, arguing that the “series of numbers” that make up a Facebook ID doesn't in itself identify anyone.

Hellerstein rejected that argument, calling it “unconvincing.” The Facebook ID “itself represents a particular individual,” he wrote.

The lawsuit against Epoch Times is one of several cases filed this year against website operators that display video on their sites and also allegedly transmit information to Facebook.

Other companies facing litigation over similar allegations include WebMD, the National Basketball Association, and Paramount.

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