The Cartoon Network successfully defeated a putative class action alleging that its mobile application transmitted a record of a user’s video history, including the user’s Android mobile device ID, to a third party data analytics company (Bango) without user consent in violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act (or VPPA). The VPPA prohibits a “video tape service provider” from knowingly disclosing a consumer’s personally identifiable information, which includes “information which identifies a person as having requested or obtained specific video materials or services from a video tape service provider.” The court found that plaintiff failed to state a claim because a user’s Android ID alone did not constitute personally identifiable information under the statute. Specifically, the court noted that “[f]rom the information disclosed by [Cartoon Network] alone, Bango could not identify the Plaintiff or any other members of the putative class.” Instead, Bango had to combine data received from Cartoon Network with information collected from other sources to determine consumers’ identities. The court compared an Android ID to a cable box code, which cannot be used to identify consumers without billing records. The court dismissed the complaint without leave to amend.
TIP: This case indicates a mobile app users’ mobile device ID may not be considered personally identifiable information under the VPPA, although this piece of data may be considered personal information under other circumstances. Companies that collect mobile device IDs should ensure that appropriate disclosures are made to consumers in consultation with counsel.