Attorneys have filed a proposed class action against Google Inc. and Viacom Inc. for allegedly tracking children's Internet use after they visited two Viacom websites. The complaint alleges violations of Video Privacy Protection Act and the Wiretap Act, plus intrusion upon seclusion and unjust enrichment.
K.T. v. Viacom, filed on December 21 in the Western District of Pennsylvania, alleges the use of so-called "cookies" computer code that allow websites to track visitors' subsequent Internet use. It seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions and unspecified damages.
The complaint argues that Viacom knowingly allows Google to track young children's use of its sites and that both companies profit by the practice.
The plaintiff's lawyers at Pittsburgh-based Campbell & Levine did not respond to requests for comment. Google and Viacom apparently have not yet selected lawyers in the case. Google spokesman Chris Gaither said the company hadn't been served and would have no comment. Viacom did not respond.
Except for the plaintiff's age, "this lawsuit looks like a number of lawsuits involving cookies used in connection with Internet browsers," said Jed Wakefield, a San Francisco litigation partner at Fenwick & West of Mountain View, Calif. Wakefield handles privacy and intellectual property cases for technology companies, but isn't involved in this case.
Most similar claims regarding adult Internet users don't survive motion to dismiss, he said; the courts cited failure to prove any injury.
Wakefield speculated that the proposed class comprises children under 13 because the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which took effect in 2000, governs the online collection of information of children under that age. But there's no private cause of action under that law, he said, noting that the class isn't attempting to bring such a claim.
"It would appear that the plaintiffs are trying to borrow from the concept of that law and apply it to laws that are completely different, such as wiretap laws an video privacy laws. It's a novel approach," Wakefield said.
Sheri Qualters can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.