HGTV Online Video Viewers Sue Parent Company for Data Privacy Violations

Discovery Communications LLC, owner of HGTV, has been hit with a class action over its alleged practice of disclosing video viewers’ data to a third party, Facebook, in violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA). The case alleges that viewers’ data is collected for one purpose but used for another purpose without consent, transgressing the 1988 law that reportedly seeks to endow consumers with the power to “‘maintain control over personal information divulged and generated in exchange for receiving services from video tape service providers.’”

Last Friday’s Southern District of New York lawsuit explains that the defendant owns and operates, a website that features hundreds of home and lifestyle videos attracting nearly 10 million viewers per month. Reportedly, when users subscribe to HGTV’s newsletter, they enter their email and are compelled to give up other information in the form of “Advanced Matching parameters” and various cookies.

According to the complaint, HGTV uses this information to monetize its website “by knowingly collecting and disclosing its subscribers’ personally identifiable information—including a record of every video clip they view—to Facebook without consent.” Further, the complaint details how Facebook compiles that information into datasets which are then sold as part of advertising tools, like the Facebook Tracking Pixel, which helps advertisers target specific audiences. 

The lawsuit seeks to certify a class of all Facebook account holders who watch videos on and subscribe to HGTV’s newsletters. It states one claim for relief under the VPPA and seeks injunctive relief,  statutory damages “to the extent available,” as well as punitive damages. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Bursor & Fisher P.A.