Saturday, November 7, 2015

Personal Identifiable Information under VPPA

Personal identifiable information and its vulnerabilities in the digital age is disconcerting. Digital media law and the digital media industry wrestles with how courts define personal identifiable information under the Video Privacy Protection Act.  This definition is important to companies that stream deliver videos to customers. How broadly the court define the scope of liability will remain a concern with personal identifiable information under the VPPA.
In a case from the Southern District of New York, Robinson v. Disney Online (No. 14-04146), the court set out some demarking points on defining personal identifiable information under VPPA.  The court determined that personal identifiable information is one that identifies the individual who has accessed specific video materials.  The court then distinguished this from the name and address that identifies and individual by statutory criteria.  Yet it set out that identifying the serial number of a device does not identify the individual.
In its explanation, the court stressed personal identifiable information it is the information that is disclosed by a ‘video tape service provider,’ by logical conclusion, then the video tape service provider does the identifying.  Whoever does the identifying is relevant to the equation in order to fit under the requirements of the VPPA and ensure that it is not a nonparty to the issue at hand.
What is important about personal identifiable information under VPPA is how liability is defined based on the disclosed information actually identifying a specific person.  Bits of information separated cannot identify an individual until they are brought together.  The attempt to arrive at some loose basis for identifying an individual would erase boundaries for defining personal identifiable information under VPPA.  A useful definition for PII as raised by the court in Robinson is information identifying a particular person as one who has accessed video content and not the serial number of the device used.

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