ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge dismissed a class action lawsuit against The Cartoon Network that claimed the company violated class members' privacy and ruled the personal information that was disclosed was too general to identify specific individuals.
"The plaintiff claims that the defendant disclosed his Android ID and the titles of the videos he watched to non-party Bango," District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr.'s Oct. 8 dismissal order states. "The Android ID is a randomly generated number that is unique to each user and device. It is not, however, akin to a name."
Without more, an Android ID does not identify a specific person, according to Thrash's order.
"As the plaintiff admits, to connect Android IDs with names, Bango had to use information 'collected from a variety of other sources,'" the order states. "Like the disclosure in 'In re Hulu' that did not violate the VPPA because the third party had to take extra steps to connect the disclosure to an identity, the disclosure by the defendant here required Bango to collect information from other sources."
From the information disclosed by the defendant alone, Bango could not identify the plaintiff or any other members of the putative class, according to the order. The Android ID, without more, is not personally identifiable information.
The plaintiff, Mark Ellis, is a North Carolina citizen. In early 2013, Ellis downloaded The Cartoon Network's app and began using it to watch video clips on his Android device.
Ellis claimed he never consented to have any information released to third parties. Non-party Bango is a data analytics company based in the United Kingdom, which specializes in tracking individual user behaviors across websites and mobile applications.
The Cartoon Network produces mostly animated television programs. It also offers video content to consumers through its mobile software application, the Cartoon Network App.
The CN App runs on mobile devices, including smartphones with Android operating systems. To use the CN App, users must visit the Google Play Store, download the CN App and then install it.
Each time a consumer accesses the CN App, a complete record of the user’s video history, along with the user's Android ID, is transmitted to Bango. Bango additionally collects a wide variety of information about consumers from other sources.
"Once Bango received the Android IDs through the CN App, it was able to reverse engineer the consumers’ identities using the information previously collected from other sources," the order states. "The plaintiff...alleges that the Android IDs constitute personally identifiable information under the VPPA. He alleges that disclosure of his Android ID was a violation of that statute entitling him and the putative class to an injunction and monetary compensation."
The defendant asserted the plaintiff has not suffered an injury in fact and therefore lacks standing to sue.
The defendant's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's amended class action complaint was granted.
Ellis is represented by Jennifer Auer Jordan of the Jordan Law Firm LLC.
The Cartoon Network is represented by James A. Lamberth and Alan W. Bakowski of Troutman Sanders LLP; Mark Zwillinger, Jon Frankel and Jeffrey Landis of ZwillGen PLLC.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia case number: 1:14-cv-00484
From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.