Kenneth Lowe Feb. 24, 2014, 11:57am

A well-known cable news network is facing a class action lawsuit in Illinois over allegations it discloses the personally identifiable information of those who use its mobile phone app.

Ryan Perry sued Cable News Network (CNN) and CNN Interactive Group on Feb. 18 in Chicago's federal court on behalf of himself and a proposed class that he contends would include thousands of people who downloaded the companies' app.

Compatible with Apple smartphones like the iPhone, the CNN App can be downloaded for free from the iTunes Store and provides news articles and video clips, as well as the option of streaming news live.

Perry claims the CNN App, which he installed on his iPhone early last year, captures extensive private data about a user's digital habits and sends it to Bango, a U.K.-based data analytics company. The data exchange, he alleges, occurs when the CNN App is closed.

"Unbeknownst to its users, each time users read news stories or view video clips using the CNN App on their iPhones, CNN discloses their personally identifiable information - including a record of every news story, video clip, and headline viewed by each user - to unrelated third parties," Perry asserts in his suit.

The information includes data that links those behavioral patterns to a user's specific phone, and provides "an intricate look into the user's habits, including revealing information such as games played, articles read, videos viewed, and even detailed sequences of events in which the user conducted these actions," the suit states.

CNN, however, does not "seek the consent of the user to share their personally identifiable information to third parties," Perry contends.

In addition to constituting "a brazen disregard" for the privacy rights of its users, the recently-filed suit claims the alleged data sharing violates the Video Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits companies from disclosing their customers' video viewing records to third parties without express written consent.

The actions associated with CNN's app are "particularly flagrant," Perry asserts, because companies like Bango can capture users' unique media access control address, a piece of data that allows them to link behavioral data to a specific person's phone.

"The business models of such 'big data' companies center on the collection of disparate pieces of uniquely identifying information and other behavioral data about individual consumers, which they then compile to form comprehensive profiles about a person's entire digital life," he alleges.

In his suit, Perry proposes certification of a class that would include all persons in the U.S. who used the CNN App on their iPhones and had their information disclosed to Bango.

He asserts he is "just one of thousands of people had their personally identifiable information sent to Bango by CNN through the CNN App."

In support of his request for the suit to move forward as a class action, Perry claims "this matter presents a textbook case for class certification" as it meets the numerosity, commonality and other requirements for class certification in federal lawsuits.

Perry wants the court to determine CNN violated the Video Privacy Protection Act, prohibit the network from the data-sharing practice and award the class statutory damages of $2,500 per violation, as well as punitive damages, court costs, attorneys' fees and pre- and post-judgment interest.

Attorneys Benjamin H. Richman, Jay Edelson, Rafey S. Balabanian, J. Dominick Larry and Courtney C. Booth of Edelson P.C. in Chicago submitted the suit on Perry's behalf.

Records show the case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman and that Magistrate Judge Sheila M. Finnegan has been designated to assist him in the matter.

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