HBO Sued For Sharing Subscribers’ Viewing History Data With Facebook

HBO streaming service
The logo for HBO,Home Box Office, the American premium cable television network, owned by Time Warner, is pictured during the HBO presentation at the Cable portion of the Television Critics Association Summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California August 1, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT) - GM1E8820ZIT01

HBO is in the spotlight again. But this time the reason is not a raucous project. Earlier today, we learned that the company is sued. It is accused of sharing subscribers’ viewing history with Facebook.

As Variety reports, Bursor & Fisher, a class action law firm, filed a suit in federal court in New York on behalf of two HBO Max subscribers, Angel McDaniel and Constance Simon. These two are sure that HBO shares its subscribers’ viewing history with Facebook. So it allowed the latter to match customers’ viewing habits with their Facebook profiles.

HBO viewing history

HBO has never got permission for doing this. Thus, it violates the Video Privacy Protection Act. By the way, the act was passed in 1988, when a reporter obtained Robert Bork’s rental history from a video store.

However, HBO is not the first streaming service facing such a problem. 10 years ago, Hulu, AMC Networks, and ESPN were accused of the same. But the judge ruled in favor of Hulu in 2015. He found that Hulu did not know that data will be used by Facebook to establish an individual’s viewing history.

Unlike this case, the lawsuit filed by Angel McDaniel and Constance Simon says that HBO knew what Facebook will do with the share data. Particularly, they insist that Facebook can retarget Facebook ads to its own subscribers using the shared data. This sounds logical because HBO is a major advertiser on Facebook.

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HBO’s Privacy Policy

When looking at the privacy policy on the website of HBO, we can see that it and its partners use cookies to deliver personalized ads, among other purposes.


We may collect different types of information during your interactions with our Sites and through our advertising and media across the Internet and mobile apps. This information may include personal information (e.g., name, phone number, postal address, email address, and certain payment information), technical information (e.g., device identifier, IP address, browser type, operating system) and usage information (e.g., how you use and navigate to and from our Sites, and information about content or advertisements you have been shown or have clicked on). We may combine these types of information together, and collectively refer to all of this information in this Privacy Policy as “Information.” Information may be collected as described below and through the use of cookies, web beacons, pixels, and other similar technologies by us or by other companies on our behalf. Below we describe the types of Information we may collect:”

But VPPA (Virtual Power Purchase Agreement) says that subscribers should give separate consent to share their video viewing history.

“In other words,” the lawsuit states, “a standard privacy policy will not suffice.”

Lastly, we should mention that the same law firm was previously involved in a case against Hearst. The latter was accused of violating Michigan’s video privacy law by selling subscriber data. By the way, Hearst had to pay a $50 million settlement in that case.

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