Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Financial & Commercial Law


The Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988 (VPPA) creates a private cause of action for any consumer whose personally identifiable information has been disclosed by a video tape service provider to a third party. The rapid growth of media companies that provide free internet-based video-streaming services, and the technologically-advanced advertising methods employed to fund this business model, have created uncertainty regarding the specific consumer segments the VPPA is designed to protect. The extensive role that third-party providers play in the collection, analysis, and segmentation of user data in the personalized advertising process raises justifiable privacy concerns for consumers. Recent VPPA case law signals that courts are not beginning to find merit in what was once dismissed as a plaintiff's mere paranoia about online data tracking. However, these recent decisions do not clarify the VPPA's application to the behind-the-scenes data sharing practices that free video-streaming providers utilize to generate advertising revenue. The current climate of uncertainty surrounding key definitions in the VPPA exposes video-steraming providers to costly class action litigation and threatens to destabilize the adverstising-based business model that has itself enabled the growth of the internet. This Note seeks to analyze the judicial expansion of the VPPA through the lens of recent case law, and present considerations that video-streaming providers can make in order to reduce their exposure to a successful lawsuit. This Note also argues that an amendment to the VPPA that conforms to consumer expectations in the modern online ecosystem is necessary to firmly establish the VPPA's application to the routine data sharing practices of video-streaming providers.