HBO hit with class action lawsuit for allegedly sharing subscriber data with Facebook

It's accused of violating the Video privacy Protection Act.

Fred Prouser / reuters

HBO is facing a class action lawsuit over allegations that it gave subscribers' viewing history to Facebook without proper permission, Variety has reported. The suit accuses HBO of providing Facebook with customer lists, allowing the social network to match viewing habits with their profiles.

It further alleges that HBO knows Facebook can combine the data because HBO is a major Facebook advertiser — and Facebook can then use that information to retarget ads to its subscribers. Since HBO never received proper customer consent to do this, it allegedly violated the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), according to the lawsuit.

HBO, like other sites, discloses to users that it (and partners) use cookies to deliver personalized ads. However, the VPPA requires separate consent from users to share their video viewing history. "A standard privacy policy will not suffice," according to the suit.

Other streaming providers have been hit with similar claims, and TikTok recently agreed to pay a $92 million settlement for (in part) violating the VPPA. In another case, however, a judge ruled in 2015 that Hulu didn't knowingly share data with Facebook that could establish an individual's viewing history. The law firm involved in the HBO suit previously won a $50 million settlement with Hearst after alleging that it violated Michigan privacy laws by selling subscriber data.