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Free Apps and the Expectation of Privacy

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Free Apps and the Expectation of Privacy

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On July 6, 2016, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Peter Deacon, a user of Pandora’s free streaming music service, is not a “customer” under Michigan’s Video Rental Privacy Protection Act. Deacon is alleging that Pandora violated the act by sharing his name and musical preferences on Facebook.

The Court noted that Pandora offered a paid subscription model, but that Deacon did not avail himself of that model, instead choosing to utilize the service for free. Thus, Deacon did not rent or borrow anything from the streaming music service. The Michigan Supreme Court’s decision is consistent with a federal 11th Circuit appellate court decision last year holding that Cartoon Network’s sharing of a user’s video viewing habits collected via a free mobile app did not violate the federal Video Privacy Protection Act because downloading the free app not make him a “subscriber”.

Free online services and apps will cite these decisions if faced with similar federal or state law claims. Users of free streaming services and apps may have a hard time arguing that video privacy protection laws apply.

Access the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision here. Contact us at Ossian Law regarding any information technology law matter.

© 2016 Ossian Law P.C.

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