Google-Viacom Child Privacy Suit Sent to N.J.
(CN) - Six class actions alleging that Google and Viacom violate children's privacy by using cookies to track their Internet use and target them for ads will be heard in New Jersey, a federal judge ruled.
Viacom, one of the world's largest media conglomerates, owns MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon and other outlets.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation sent federal actions filed in six states to New Jersey, in its June ruling.
Stephanie Fryar filed a nationwide class action against Viacom and Google on behalf of her two children, both of then younger than 13, in Houston in December 2012.
Fryar claimed that when her sons registered and created profiles on three Viacom-operated websites - nick.com, nickjr.com, and neopets.com - the defendants placed a doubleclick.net cookie "id" on the children's computers to track their communications to those websites and others.
Google uses the cookies to keep records of videos kids watch, then show "targeted advertising to them based on their individualized web usage communications, and videos requested and obtained," according to the complaint.
Fryar sought class damages for violations of the Wiretap Act and Video Privacy Protection Act, intrusion upon seclusion, and unjust enrichment.
Similar class actions were filed against the corporations in California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Viacom wanted to centralize the litigation in New Jersey, but all responding plaintiffs sought centralization in the Northern District of California.
The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation sided with Viacom on venue.
"Centralization of this consumer privacy litigation is consistent with our recent decisions involving the allegedly unlawful tracking of individuals' internet activity," U.S. District Judge John Heyburn, of the Western District of Kentucky, wrote for the panel. "Centralization will eliminate duplicative discovery; prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings, including with respect to class certification; and conserve tile resources of the parties, their counsel, and the judiciary.
"We are persuaded that the District of New Jersey is an appropriate transferee district for this litigation," Heyburn added. "The district is a convenient and accessible forum, relatively close to potential witnesses and evidence located in New Jersey and New York City. The district also has the resources and capacity to efficiently handle this litigation. Finally, centralization before Hon. Stanley R. Chesler permits the panel to assign the litigation to an able jurist with prior MDL experience."