Hulu ‘Didn’t Know’ It Was Sending User Data to Facebook

By Karen Fratti 

hulu-logoIn its most recent argument in it’s privacy suit, Hulu has submitted court docs claiming that they had no way of knowing that user data would be sent to Facebook via the like button on it’s pages.

This means that Hulu either has some major staffing problems or a really good lawyer. I’ll put money on the latter.

The suit was brought all the way back in 2012, when judges allowed that Hulu had run afoul of the Video Privacy Protection Act, which in a nice little twist, exists only because a Supreme Court Judge nominee didn’t want people knowing what he was renting at Blockbuster

And there’s the rub: there is an instinct, in some cases, to not want to broadcast what you’re watching. The Superbowl? Everyone thinks that’s cool. Season 3 of “Sports Night” on a Friday night? That’s just embarrassing.

Fear strikes when I scroll through Netflix on my Samsung as I realize that if I can see that my Facebook friend has been watching good stand-up comedy, he can see I’ve been watching sappy rom-coms.

If there’s a Facebook Like button on the video you’re watching and you press it — you should assume that you’re not just promoting content but that everyone is going to know about it. Especially Facebook and Hulu, despite the claim that:

Hulu argues in its newest court papers that there’s no evidence it knew that adding Facebook’s “Like” button to the site would result in the transmission of information about users to Facebook — which was accomplished via cookies.Nothing in this comprehensive record shows a knowing disclosure of [personally identifiable information] by Hulu,” the company argues in a motion for summary judgment filed on Tuesday with U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in the Northern District of California. “In fact, the evidence shows the opposite: Hulu did not know that Facebook’s cookies contained the Facebook User ID, or what Facebook did, if anything, with any such data.

But apparently the button was configured in a way that user data was transmitted via cookies even if the button wasn’t clicked. Hulu has a point that a social sharing button isn’t the equivalent of a video store owning giving user data to a reporter, but that’s harder to fight in court. Better to continue to obscure or feign ignorance about what you and your competitors are doing with subscriber’s info while they watch.

h/t MediaPost