Google And Apple Prevail In Privacy Battle Over Streaming Video Records

Siding with Google and Apple, a federal appellate court on Wednesday refused to reinstate lawsuits alleging that the companies violated state privacy laws in New York and Minnesota by retaining data about people's streaming video rentals.

In an unsigned opinion, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld two district court judges' rulings that New York and Minnesota privacy laws don't allow individuals to sue companies for failing to delete records.

Wednesday's decision stems from separate class-action complaints brought against Google and Apple, both filed in 2022 by residents of New York and Minnesota.

The consumers alleged in both cases that the companies wrongly retained streaming video renters' viewing histories and credit card information.

Video privacy laws in both New York and Minnesota ban disclosure of viewing data without consent, and require companies to promptly destroy identifiable information as soon as practical, with an outer limit of one year from the time the data is no longer needed.



Google and Apple urged the trial judges to dismiss the complaints at an early stage, arguing that the state laws don't allow consumers to bring private lawsuits over data retention.

“To Apple’s knowledge, no court has ever recognized a private right of action for wrongful retention of consumer [personally identifiable information] under either statute,” the company argued to U.S. District Court Judge Haywood Gilliam in the Northern District of California.

Gilliam agreed with Apple and threw out the lawsuit in March 2023.

Google made a similar argument to U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California. She also sided with Google and dismissed the complaint in May 2023.

The consumers appealed both cases to the 9th Circuit, arguing that both trial judges misinterpreted the state laws. Counsel for the consumers specifically argued that neither the New York nor Minnesota law has any language that would explicitly prohibit private lawsuits over record retention.

The appellate judges rejected the consumers' argument. They wrote that both statutes have provisions allowing private lawsuits over disclosure of video viewing records, but don't have comparable language that would allow lawsuits for wrongful retention of data.

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