HBO sued for sharing viewing history with Facebook

Two subscribers have sued HBO in the US. They claim that the video streaming service shared their viewing history with Facebook without being asked. The social medium would link this data to Facebook profiles.

That writes the American media company Variety.

Federal law prohibits sharing of viewing history

Law firm Bursor & Fisher filed suit in federal court in New York on Tuesday on behalf of two concerned subscribers. It states that HBO has shared subscriber viewing history with Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s social network then linked this data to Facebook profiles. Facebook, therefore, knows flawlessly which movies and series users watch in their spare time.

With these practices, HBO is violating the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA). This federal law was enacted in 1988 by then-President Ronald Reagan. The reason for this was that a reporter made the viewing and rental history of Judge Robert Bork public. At the time, Bork was in the running to be nominated for the Supreme Court. Ultimately, his nomination was withdrawn and Anthony Kennedy was awarded the nomination.

‘Standard privacy policy is not enough’

The subscribers’ lawyers argue that HBO should be aware of the data exchange with Facebook because the media company is a major advertiser on the social network. Information about customers’ viewing history is used to provide its own subscribers with targeted advertisements.

HBO does have a privacy policy on its website, but according to the law firm, that is insufficient to guarantee the privacy of subscribers. The privacy policy only states that HBO and its partners use cookies to serve personalized advertisements. However, the VPPA requires that subscribers must give explicit permission to share their viewing history with other parties. “A standard privacy policy is not enough,” Variety said in the indictment.

HBO did not take the opportunity to comment on the lawsuit. This is a so-called class action lawsuit or mass damage claim. That means other subscribers who feel their privacy has been violated can join this case. They then do not have to file a lawsuit on their own about the alleged violation of privacy.

Over the past decade, VPPA legislation has been regularly pulled out to bring lawsuits against streaming service providers. Hulu, AMC Networks, and sports channel ESPN were among those affected. In 2015, a court ruled in Hulu’s favor. The streaming service said it had no knowledge of sharing the viewing history of individual users with Facebook. Despite this acquittal, the verdict remains controversial to this day.

HBO Max has been available in our country since Tuesday 8 March. The streaming service currently has more than 500 films and 285 series in its range. Blockbusters like The Matrix: Resurrections, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Godzilla vs. Kong, Game of Thrones, The Wire, and Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: ​​Return to Hogwarts can be watched here for just a few euros a month.

If you take out a subscription before March 31, you will receive a 50 percent discount for life. For a basic subscription, you pay 2.99 euros per month. For a standard subscription, you will lose 3.99 euros per month. Then you will see videos in higher quality (Full HD or 4K), the number of downloads is a lot higher (30 instead of 5) and you can stream on up to three devices simultaneously (instead of one device).

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