Madison County minor files class action against Google, Viacom

A Madison County minor has sued Google and Viacom, claiming the two companies violate privacy rights by tracking minors' Internet activity and video viewing habits.

Through a next of friend, R.M., a minor child under the age of 13, filed the class action complaint Dec. 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

R.M.’s suit accuses Google and Viacom of violating federal wiretap and video privacy laws, the Illinois Eavesdropping Act and makes claims for intrusion upon seclusion and unjust enrichment.

It comes about a month after a 16-year-old Madison County minor sued Google in federal court.

That teen, A.K., filed a class action complaint in November, claiming that Google intercepts and uses Gmail subscribers’ emails to generate advertising revenue.

The suit filed last week contends that Google placed cookies on R.M.'s computer after visiting three Viacom-operated websites targeted at children: www.nick.com; nickjr.com; and neopets.com.

R.M. is a registered user, created a profile and requested video materials on these websites, the suit states, noting that Viacom knowingly permits Google to place this “doubleclick.net cookie named ‘id’” on minors’ computers.

The cookie that Google allegedly placed on R.M.’s computer tracked the minor’s communications to those and other websites, the suit states.

It also contends that once the defendants obtained this information, they conspired to make a profit through targeted Internet marketing directed at R.M. and other minor members of the proposed class.

R.M. proposes a class for certification that would include all U.S. minors under 13 who accessed the trio of websites and who had tracking cookies placed on their computers by the defendants.

The complaint also proposes two subclasses, one for Illinois minors and one for those who accessed www.nick.com and nickjr.com for video materials.

When it comes to damages, R.M. contends that the defendants are liable to class members in the sum of $100 for each day each member’s data was illegally obtained or $10,000 per violation, as well punitive damages, injunctive and declaratory relief, and other costs.

The suit also seeks damages of not less than $2,500 per plaintiff, as well as other damages and relief, for the defendants’ alleged violation of the Video Privacy Act.

Court records show that Mark C. Goldenberg, Kevin Paul Green and Thomas P. Rosenfeld of Goldenberg Heller Antognoli & Rowland in Edwardsville represent the minor plaintiff.

And although it was not mentioned in the complaint, there is Multi-District Litigation pending in Delaware against Google dealing with "Cookie Placement Consumer Privacy Litigation."

Created in June, the MDL includes about two dozen complaints against Google and other defendants.

The plaintiffs in that litigation claim the search engine giant circumvented privacy settings on Safari to track user activity through the use of Internet cookies.

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