Tubi Must Face Video Privacy Claims

The ad-supported streaming service Tubi must face claims that it wrongly disclosed information about users' video viewing history for ad-targeting purposes, a federal judge has ruled.

In a decision issued last week, U.S. District Court Judge John Tharp, Jr. in the Northern District of Illinois said the allegations against Tubi, if true, could support a finding that it violated the Video Privacy Protection Act -- a 1988 law that prohbits video companies from sharing consumers' personally identifiable video-viewing information without their consent.

The ruling stems from a class-action complaint brought last year by Tubi user Sylvia Campos of Illinois. She alleged Tubi draws on “sophisticated tracking technology” to collect subscribers' personally identifiable information and video-viewing history, and then discloses that data in order to allow “third-parties to target subscribers with advertising based on their viewing history.”



The complaint also alleged that Tubi partnered with TransUnion in order to connect subscribers' viewing data with “specific demographic data that can be used to identify them,” citing a 2020 announcement about the deal.

Tubi and TransUnion said at the time that the partnership involved “combining Tubi’s deep understanding of content viewing behaviors with TransUnion’s robust data assets, rooted in their cross-verified consumer database.”

They added that the deal would enable advertisers to “more seamlessly bridge the gap between individual and household, and deliver a more personalized ad experience alongside the content.”

Tubi sought a fast dismissal of the complaint, arguing in papers filed last August that Campos's allegations were too conclusory to warrant further proceedings.

“She fails to allege what personal data, combined with what particular viewing content, was included in the disclosure,” Tubi argued, adding that Campos also “fails to identify with any particularity the person or entity to whom disclosure allegedly was made.”

The company also said the allegations reflected only that Tubi “performs targeted advertising,” not that it shares personally identifiable video-viewing history with third parties.

Tharp rejected Tubi's argument, writing that the allegations -- including the one regarding the deal with TransUnion -- “provide ample grounds to infer that Tubi collects users’ data, including individual-level viewing history and other [personally identifiable information], for the purposes of targeting them with ads.”

Tubi had also argued that the matter should be sent to arbitration because its terms of use provided that users must arbitrate disputes.

Tharp rejected that argument as well, writing that Tubi didn't establish that it “reasonably communicated” those terms of use to Campos. He said that while Tubi's registration page contained a link to the terms of use, that link wasn't “reasonablly visually conspicuous.”

Tubi is one of numerous companies currently facing lawsuits alleging violations of the federal video privacy law. The ruling against the streaming service comes just one week after a different federal judge said Dotdash Meredith's Allrecipes must face similar claims.

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