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New class action lawsuit accuses Neflix of privacy breach

A new class action lawsuit filed against Neflix, the DVD-mailing and online-movie streaming business, accuses the company of violating customer privacy. The proposed class action lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit claims that the company violates privacy and business laws by keeping digitized data records of people’s viewing habits, even long after a person cancels any Netflix service.

The data is used in an algorithm that suggests to customers movies that they might like, based on related movies others have liked before them. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Esq., the plaintiffs argue that the retention of data on people who have since canceled their subscriptions with Netflix violates the federal Video Privacy Protection Act. They also believe it amounts to breach of fiduciary duty and unjust enrichment, and also violates other consumer protection and business laws.

The Video Privacy Protection Act makes it illegal to reveal information that could publicly link a person to what videos they rent or their rental history. A Supreme Court nominee’s video rental history was made public in the late 1980s while he was under scrutiny after his nomination. Robert Bork’s experience led to the VPPA to be passed by Congress.

According to THR, Esq., Netflix has faced other class action lawsuits regarding customer privacy and its recommendation algorithms. The company has settled with the plaintiffs before any of the cases made it to court as did Blockbuster when faced with a similar lawsuit, so further case law on consumer privacy in the age of online movie streaming has not made much progress.


Netflix Data On Customer Viewing Habits Sparks New Class Action Lawsuit (The Hollywood Reporter)

John P. Aldrich
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