Significantly, the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion on October 9th that consumers who download and use free mobile apps do not fall within the definition of a “subscriber” under the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA). The VPPA was enacted in 1988 following the disclosure of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s video rental records (remember the questions around Anita Hill?). The significance of this ruling is that there has been a plethora of class action litigation against companies who disclose information about users of mobile apps without their consent.
In this case, The Cartoon Network allegedly disclosed information about its free mobile app users without their consent in violation of the VPPA. The Court disagreed and found that the mere downloading and viewing of freely available material through a free mobile app does not rise to the level of becoming a subscriber, who is afforded the protection of the VPPA.
Good news for companies that offer free mobile apps. Bad news for plaintiffs’ class action attorneys.