In a closely watched case, the publisher of the USA Today mobile app (Gannett) is alleged to have violated the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA). The VPPA prohibits a video tape service provider from disclosing personal information about a subscriber. The USA Today app allows users to, among other things, view video clips.

The complaint alleges that when users view a particular clip, the app sends to Adobe the title of the video viewed, the GPS location of the device when the video was viewed, and the unique Android ID of the device. A lower court had dismissed the case against Gannett, but the First Circuit recently reversed and remanded, holding that the complaint adequately pleaded that (1) the information disclosed to Adobe fell within the VPPA’s definition of personal information and (2) the plaintiff in the case was a subscriber as contemplated under the VPPA, even though the user was not required to pay for the app or the video clips.

TIP: This case raises concerns about what a court might view as personally identifiable information and suggests that this court, at least, takes a broad view of what might constitute personal information. Companies designing their information collection and sharing practices should keep this in mind, especially if providing video content.