This week in a South Carolina federal court, Google and YouTube moved to dismiss a class action lawsuit that claims the companies gather information from site users under 13 without seeking users’ parental permission, and that this was done for commercial gain.
Allegedly, this practice was unlawful, violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
However, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act reportedly affords no private right of action (permissions for private individuals to collect damages on the violation of a law), so the YouTube users brought forward allegations of privacy violations based on the California Constitution and common law intrusion upon seclusion.
Google and YouTube argued that the site users’ attempt to allege a violation of one law but seek damages based on violations of another are merely an attempt to undermine the fact that the law is designed to be enforced by the FTC and state attorneys.
YouTube and Google claim that this was designed to provide the “certainty of a single federal enforcement scheme and [to give] the FTC flexibility to address evolving technology.”
The companies go on to state that because Congress intentionally designed COPPA to be enforced by the FTC and state attorneys, “these private claims are preempted because allowing them to proceed would undermine Congress’ remedial scheme.”
They go on to call the site users’ proposed YouTube, Google class action lawsuit an “attempted end run around this exclusive enforcement structure,” by attempting to privately use state laws to enforce the act.
Google and YouTube further attack the claims within the YouTube child privacy class action lawsuit, in addition to attacking the site users’ attempt to file a class action lawsuit in the first place.
In her proposed YouTube, Google class action lawsuit, plaintiff Sirdonia Lashay Manigault-Johnson claimed that her underage son was able to set up a YouTube account, though the site requires users to be at least 13-years-old to make an account.
Allegedly, during the account set-up process, her son was asked to give personal information, including location and other identifying information. She claims that Google and its parent company, Alphabet, who own YouTube, did not require “verifiable” parental consent, as is required by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Google and YouTube state that Manigault-Johnson’s claim does not sufficiently allege violations of the California Constitution, because the constitution requires that claims show that information collected was an “an egregious breach of social norms.” Google and YouTube allege that their practice of collecting personal information from people attempting to set-up an account is far from “an egregious breach of social norms.”
Additionally, the companies go on to claim that Manigault-Johnson failed to sufficiently established that YouTube invaded a private space or harmed her or her son, as she alleged.
Manigault-Johnson is represented by Akim A. Anastopoulo, Eric M. Poulin, Roy T. Willey IV, and Matthew Nall of Anastopoulo Law Firm LLC.
The YouTube, Google Child Data Privacy Violation Class Action Lawsuit is Manigault-Johnson, et al. v. Google LLC, et al., Case No. 2:18-cv-01032, in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
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