A proposed class action alleges Discovery Communications unlawfully shares certain HGTV.com visitors’ personally identifiable information with Facebook without consent to do so.
The 25-page case alleges HGTV.com owner and operator Discovery has violated the federal Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) by knowingly transmitting nine distinct HGTV.com visitor actions, called “events,” to Facebook by way of a tracking pixel placed within the website’s code. According to the suit, HGTV discloses this information, particularly that of newsletter subscribers who watch videos on the site, so that it can match website visitors to their Facebook profiles, which thereby allows it to better track analytics and target its own advertisements.
Through Facebook, advertisers such as HGTV have the capability to build a custom audience to whom advertisements can be targeted, the case relays. A custom audience allows an advertiser to target existing customers directly or use their demographic, interest and behavioral information to target new people “who share similar qualities,” the lawsuit says. To do all of this, an advertiser must supply certain underlying data directly to Facebook, the case relays, and tracking pixel is one tool with which an advertiser can automatically collect and transmit information on website visitors so as to better target its ads, according to the complaint.
The nine events HGTV collects and sends to Facebook through its tracking pixel—PageView, ViewContent, microdata, button clicks, VideoAdStart, VideoAdComplete, VideoContentStart and VideoContentComplete—independently and jointly allow specific videos on the website and the videos’ content, title and URL to be identified, the lawsuit relays. When a person watches a video on HGTV.com, which reportedly gets nearly 10 million visitors each month, HGTV sends the social media platform certain cookies that contain information, including, for instance, an individual’s Facebook ID, that can be used for targeted advertising, the case states.
When brought together, the HGTV.com event data and cookie-related identifiers are enough to allow Facebook to know, among other things, which video a user has watched, the complaint stresses.
Similarly, Facebook’s tracking pixel also works with regard to scanning forms on HGTV.com into which users can input identifying information, including newsletter forms, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit looks to cover all persons in the United States who have a Facebook account, subscribed to HGTV’s newsletter and viewed videos on HGTV’s website.
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