NBCUniversal Media, LLC faces at least two proposed class action lawsuits that allege the company has unlawfully sold, rented, transmitted and/or otherwise disclosed and sold Golf Channel viewers’ personal information and viewing histories to third parties without consent to do so.
The lawsuits, filed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island federal courts, allege the third parties who receive Golf Channel viewers’ data from NBCUniversal then append the information to myriad other categories of personal and demographic data, which is then re-sold to other third parties on the open market.
The suits respectively allege violations of the federal Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (VPPA) and Rhode Island’s Video, Audio, and Publication Rental Privacy Act (RIVRPA) as both laws “clearly prohibit what Defendant has done,” the complaints read.
According to the lawsuits, NBCUniversal’s disclosure of Golf Channel viewers’ data for profit has resulted for many in “a barrage of unwanted junk mail to their home addresses and email inboxes,” among other damages, and poses a particular threat to “vulnerable members of society,” including elderly consumers. From the complaints:
“For example, as a result of Defendant’s disclosures of Personal Viewing Information, any person or entity could buy a list with the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all women over the age of 50 who reside in New York, earn an income of over $80,000, own their home free and clear, and have purchased the Golf Channel from Defendant. Such a list is available for sale for approximately $120.00 per thousand customers listed.”
NBCUniversal maintains “a vast digital database” of consumers’ personal viewing information, including each customer’s name and address and the specifics of the titles of all products, such as the subscription-based Golf Channel, bought from the company, the lawsuits say. Citing “publicly available evidence,” the cases relay the personal viewing data of more than 13 million Golf Channel subscribers nationwide who bought NBCUniversal’s video products is up for sale on NextMark, Inc.’s website for a base price of $85 per thousand records, or 8.5 cents each.
The information made for sale by NextMark includes each viewer’s name, postal address, phone number, gender, age, income, whether they have children, homeowner status and title of the product purchased, according to the suits.
In all, NBCUniversal’s conduct has put proposed class members unknowingly in the crosshairs of scammers.
“Defendant does not seek its customers’ prior written consent to the disclosure of their Personal Viewing Information (in writing or otherwise) and its customers remain unaware that their Personal Viewing Information and other sensitive data is being sold, rented and exchanged on the open market,” the cases claim.
The plaintiffs in each lawsuit say that as a result of NBCUniversal’s viewing data disclosure practices, they’ve been subject to “unwarranted and harassing junk mail” linked directly to the defendant’s conduct. Ultimately, the plaintiffs’ Golf Channel subscriptions are worth less than what they paid for the product, and the consumers would not have been willing to shell out as much, or buy the service at all, had they known NBCUniversal would share their viewing data, the cases assert.
The lawsuits look to represent anyone in the United States who, at any time during the applicable statutory period, had their personal viewing information disclosed to a third party by NBCUniversal Media. The suit filed in Rhode Island also seeks to cover a subclass of individuals in the state who fit the same criteria.
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