In a lawsuit filed in California Superior Court, two plaintiffs claim retail giant Walmart, Inc. unlawfully shares with Facebook information about customers’ identities and online video media purchases.
In a lawsuit recently filed in California Superior Court, two plaintiffs claim retail giant Walmart, Inc. unlawfully shares with Facebook information about customers’ identities and online video media purchases.
The plaintiffs allege that when customers purchase video media—such as DVDs, Blu-rays, and video games—on Walmart.com, the company uses a built-in analytics tool called a “pixel” to capture their Facebook IDs and the product IDs of items they purchased before sharing this data with Facebook, a non-party to this suit. The suit explains that the social media platform can then use the information to target individuals with ads for other Walmart products. The issue, the case argues, is that Walmart is required by law to first obtain customers’ express written consent in a stand-alone form before sharing their information. According to the suit, Walmart does no such thing.
More specifically, the case alleges that the defendant’s data exchange violates the federal Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), which prohibits “video tape service providers” such as Walmart from disclosing without consent consumers’ personally identifiable information (PII), including “information which identifies a person as having requested or obtained specific video materials or services from a video tape service provider."
The plaintiffs claim they never provided Walmart with consent to disclose their PII and would not have purchased video media from Walmart.com had they known their information would be shared with Facebook. From the complaint:
“Plaintiffs never gave Walmart any written consent to disclose their Video Media purchases to Facebook, let alone the consent required by the VPPA, i.e., written consent in a form distinct and separate from any form setting forth their other legal or financial obligations.
Plaintiffs and the proposed classes face a threat of imminent or actual harm because, inter alia, they cannot make an informed decision about whether to purchase Video Media from Walmart in the future without knowing whether Walmart has ceased its unlawful practices.”