Google, Viacom win dismissal of children's web privacy lawsuit

Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:24pm EST
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Google Inc (GOOGL.O: Quote) and Viacom Inc (VIAB.O: Quote) won the dismissal of a nationwide privacy lawsuit accusing them of illegally tracking the Internet activity of boys and girls who visited Nickelodeon's website, in order to send targeted advertising.

The lawsuit claimed that Viacom secretly kept track of children under the age of 13 who streamed videos and played video games on its website, and shared what it learned with Google.

It said both companies then without permission put text files known as "cookies" into the children's computers, letting them gather additional information that advertisers could use.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of young children who registered to use

But in a Jan. 20 decision, U.S. District Judge Stanley Chesler in Newark, New Jersey found no showing that Google and Viacom could identify which children streamed specific videos or played specific video games, as opposed to identifying children generally.

He also found no showing that the companies engaged in "highly offensive" behavior for which they could be held liable.

"Children do indeed warrant special attention and heightened protections under our laws and social norms," Chesler wrote.

"Although plaintiffs have identified conduct that may be worthy of further legislative and executive attention, they have not cited any existing and applicable legal authority" to support their claims, he added.   Continued...

People are silhouetted as they pose with laptops in front of a screen projected with a Google logo, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica October 29, 2014.   REUTERS/Dado Ruvic