CHICAGO (CN) - With each news story or video clip viewed, CNN's mobile app sends a record of the user's activity to a data analytics company, which resells the personally identifiable information to advertisers, a class action claims in Federal Court.
Lead plaintiff Ryan Perry accuses Cable News Network and CNN Interactive Group of "a brazen disregard for its users' privacy rights," in violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act.
CNN, one of the largest television news channels in the world, offers mobile content through its app for smartphones. But "unbeknownst to its users, each time users read news stories or view video clips using the CNN App on their iPhones, CNN discloses their personally identifiable information - including a record of every news story, video clip, and headline viewed by each user (collectively, 'Personally Identifiable Information' or 'PII') - to unrelated third parties. In addition to demonstrating a brazen disregard for its users' privacy rights, CNN's actions also violate the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), which prohibits companies from disclosing their customers' video viewing records to third parties without express written consent," the lawsuit states.
"CNN's violation of the VPPA is particularly flagrant here, as it programmed the
CNN App to submit users' PII to a third party web data analytics company. The business models of such 'big data' companies center on the collection of disparate pieces of uniquely identifying information and online behavioral data about individual consumers, which they then compile to form comprehensive profiles about a person's entire digital life. These profiles can then be used for targeted advertising, sold as a commodity to other data brokers, or both."
On installation, the app prompts the user to allow CNN to use the phone's location and to send notifications, but never asks for the user's consent to share information with third parties, Perry claims.
Each time a user closes the app, it sends a complete record of the activity to a U.K. data analytics company called Bango, according to the complaint.
Bango and similar companies maintain massive digital databases on consumers, and collect a "frightening array of information that feeds into a consumer's digital dossier," which is sold as a commodity to advertisers, Perry says.
"In an era when the collection and monetization of consumer data proliferates on an unprecedented scale, it's important that companies are held accountable for the exploitation of their users' sensitive information. CNN chose to disregard plaintiff's and thousands of other users' statutorily protected privacy rights by releasing their sensitive data into the marketplace," Perry claims.
Perry seeks punitive damages for violation of the VPPA, plus $2,500 in statutory damages per violation.
He is represented by Benjamin Richman with Edelson PC.
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