Blockbuster sued over Facebook Beacon information sharing
It's accused of violating customer privacy by sharing info about movie rentals
The lawsuit, filed last week by Dallas County resident Cathryn Elaine Harris, accuses Blockbuster of breaking the provisions of the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1998. The rarely invoked act basically prohibits movie rental companies such as Blockbuster from disclosing to other parties any personally identifiable rental records of their customers -- unless the customer consents to the practice in writing.
In her lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Harris alleged that Blockbuster violated the provisions of this law when it shared her video tape rental and sales records with Facebook without seeking or getting her permission. The lawsuit charges Blockbuster with knowingly sharing this information and continuing to share it with a third party.
"Defendant clearly knows that plaintiffs' and class members' personally identifiable information was and currently still is being distributed to Facebook because defendant's Web site pop-up screen tells plaintiffs and class members that their information is being sent to Facebook every time plaintiffs and class members rent, purchase or add a movie to their queue," the complaint said. The suit is seeking damages of $2,500 for each instance in which Blockbuster may have disclosed customer information to Facebook under the Beacon program.
In a statement sent via email, Blockbuster denied the allegations in the case. "Our alliance with Facebook included numerous levels of privacy protection built in for our online subscribers. While we cannot discuss the specifics of this lawsuit, we intend to vigorously defend the Company in this litigation," the company said.
The lawsuit is not entirely unexpected. Last December, at the height of the Facebook Beacon controversy, James Grimmelmann, an associate professor at New York Law School had raised the possibility of Blockbuster being sued over its participation in the program.
Facebook's Beacon ad service was released in early November 2007 as a part of the Facebook Ads platform. It is designed to track the activities of Facebook users on participating Web sites and to report those activities to the users' Facebook friends unless specifically told not to do so. The idea was to give participating online companies a way to monitor the activities of Facebook users on their Web sites and to use that information to then deliver targeted messages to Facebook friends. Facebook made it in an opt-in feature after an outcry over the service soon after it was launched.
Blockbuster was one of 44 companies that signed up as a participating member when the service launched.
Grimmelmann said at the time that the mere fact that Blockbuster passed on movie choice information about its customers to Facebook constituted a violation of the law -- regardless of whether Facebook then later shared that information with others or not.
The video protection law invoked in this case was passed after Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork's video rental records were published in a newspaper. According to a description of the law on the Electronic Privacy Information Center Web site, the law "stands as one of the strongest protections of consumer privacy against a specific form of data collection."
Read more about Privacy in Computerworld's Privacy Topic Center.
- Agility & Scalability for Oracle EBS R12 and RAC on VMware vSphere 5 This white paper outlines extensive performance and scalability testing of Oracle EBS applications on a Vblock™ Systems with vSphere 5.
- Oracle and VCE: The Next Step in Integrated Computing Platforms In this ESG Lab review you will learn how a VCE system driven by Oracle, delivers the perfect blend of high performance and...
- Migrate Oracle Apps from RISC/UNIX to Virtualized x86 Ready to move Oracle to a virtualized environment? This brief explains how true converged infrastructure can help you migrate from a RISC/UNIX environment...
- Step Out of the Bull's-Eye Learn about the evolution of targeted attacks, the latest in security intelligence, and strategic steps to keep your business safe.
- Live Webcast How to serve up a Grand Slam with a scalable IT Infrastructure for cloud, big data and advanced analytics Register today to attend this webcast, and see examples of how The U.S. Tennis Association, Wimbledon and U.S. Golf Association are using the...
- Live Webcast Security Vulnerabilities Associated With Having Local Administrator Privileges Viewfinity will demonstrate how removing admin rights and granularly managing privileges at the application level reduces the attack surface.
- Live Webcast IBM FlashSystem V840: Leveraging Software-Defined Flash to Drive Your Business With end-to-end, tightly integrated functionality and super-fast flash technology, products like IBM FlashSystem V840 Enterprise Performance Solution empower businesses to leverage the efficiency...
- Data Protection and Disaster Recovery with iSCSI and VMware Get this on demand webcast now
- Keep Servers Up and Running and Attackers in the Dark An SSL/TLS handshake requires at least 10 times more processing power on a server than on the client. SSL renegotiation attacks can readily...