Siding with Google, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging a federal appeals court to reconsider its recent decision to reinstate class-action privacy claims brought by parents of young YouTube users.
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed this month, the business group argues that the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which sets out national children's privacy rules, precludes the parents' claims.
The organization warns that the panel's recent decision allowing the parents to proceed with their claims will affect “countless internet users and businesses in this country and, ultimately, around the world.”
The business group is weighing in on a lawsuit by parents who alleged that YouTube and other various channel operators wrongly collected tracking data from young children.
The suit came shortly after Google agreed to pay $170 million to settle with federal and state authorities over allegations that YouTube violated the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting data from viewers younger than 13, without parental consent.
The parents allege in their civil lawsuit that YouTube engaged in “intrusion upon seclusion” -- a privacy claim that can be brought in California, and that involves “highly offensive” conduct.
U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in the Northern District of California threw out the case on the grounds that the claims stemmed from the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act -- which can only be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and state officials.
The parents then appealed to the 9th Circuit, which revived the case. The appellate court said in a decision issued last December that the federal children's privacy law doesn't stop individuals from pursuing “parallel” claims rooted in state law.
Google recently urged the 9th Circuit to reconsider that decision, arguing that the ruling “ignored” the wording of the federal law, as well as “its structure and purpose.”
The Chamber of Commerce is backing Google, arguing that Congress “chose to place enforcement authority exclusively in the hands of the federal agencies and state attorneys general.”
The organization adds that Congress's decision about enforcement “reflects calculated choices aimed at striking a delicate balance in the complex ecosystem of the internet.”
The decision issued last December “portends the elimination of a national standard and opens the door to a dizzying patchwork of varying laws as spun by private plaintiffs,” the Chamber of Commerce contends.
“One state could mandate that a website delete all personal information collected from children, while another state might mandate that all such data be preserved for auditing and law-enforcement purposes,” the group writes. “The resulting uncertainty and confusion from situations like these will discourage responsible providers from offering useful services to children on the internet.”