Google Inc (GOGL) and Viacom, Inc (VIA) Can’t Be Sued for Children’s Privacy Violations: Ruling

Google (GOOG)

Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Viacom, Inc. (NASDAQ:VIA) have won the dismissal of a multidistrict lawsuit filed against the two companies on charges of violating privacy of children under the age of 13. In dismissing the complaints in favor of Google and Viacom, U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler of the District of New Jersey stated in his ruling dated January 20 that the defendants’ conduct cannot be considered as “highly offensive”.

In their complaints, the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit in behalf of children who visited three Viacom, Inc. (NASDAQ:VIA) sites, namely Nick.com, NickJr.com and Neopets.com, alleged that Viacom collected unique electronic identifying information about the children, and sent the data to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL). Viacom also used cookies, the allegation continued, to enable both itself and Google to target children for advertising purposes. The complaint was filed in a court in Newark, New Jersey.

Google (GOOG)In July last year, Judge Chesler ruled that the plaintiffs’ pleadings were deficient. That ruling pertained to a complaint filed against Viacom, Inc. (NASDAQ:VIA), but not against Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL). Chesler found out that the data in question is not personally identifiable. The plaintiffs proceeded to amend their complaints, arguing that along with information collected by Google through its various sites and services, Viacom’s data will expose users’ identity.

Viacom, Inc. (NASDAQ:VIA) defended its actions of collecting data as not violating users’ privacy, saying that code names were assigned to information it sent to Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL), instead of actual names. The plaintiffs rebutted Viacom’s claim by noting that users can still be identified when they register for any of Google’s services. Chesler, however, noted that Google does not allow children under 13 years of age to register for any of its services. “Although plaintiffs have identified conduct that may be worthy of further legislative and executive attention, they have not cited any existing and applicable legal authority to support their claims,” Chesler wrote in his decision. He noted that the amended complaints “ includes no allegation that Google can identify the individual plaintiffs in this case, as opposed to identifying people generally, nor any allegation that Google has actually done so here.”

This article has been written by Nonito Guntan.

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