Video rental provider Netflix faces multiple lawsuits claiming that the company violates the Video Privacy Protection Act – as well as various California state laws – by keeping consumers’ personal information, like credit card numbers and rental histories, after they cancel their accounts.
Over the last few months five suits have been filed in California federal court, each seeking class-action status.
In the first suit, filed in late January, Jeff Milans, a former Netflix user, brought suit, calling the company’s stored information a “veritable digital dossier” on former subscribers, containing credit card numbers, billing and contact information, user name and password, and a highly detailed account of the individual’s programming viewing history.
Under the VPPA, videotape service providers must destroy personally identifiable information “as soon as practicable, but no later than one year from the date the information is no longer necessary for the purpose for which it was collected.”
But Netflix maintains such information for at least two years, according to the complaint, and former subscribers who log into their Netflix account are greeted with their previously input credit card information and a detailed history of the video programming they ordered.
The suits seek statutory damages of $2,500 per violation under the VPPA and $3,000 per violation under the California Consumer Records Act, as well as punitive damages.
To read the complaint in Milans v. Netflix, click here.
Why it matters: The Milans complaint noted that the plaintiff’s suit is not the first privacy controversy Netflix has faced. In 2010 the company received a warning letter from the Federal Trade Commission after Netflix announced it would release video viewing information about subscribers as part of a contest to improve its video recommendations to consumers. Netflix subsequently cancelled the contest and agreed to follow certain parameters regarding its use of consumers’ data in the future.