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Comcast Use of Subscriber Info Massachusetts Class Action

How much information about your private view habits is your cable company allowed to collect without your consent? The complaint for this class action alleges that Comcast Cable Communications, LLC violates subscribers’ federal privacy rights and Massachusetts consumer protection laws by gathering, maintaining, and using their data without their consent.

The class for this action is all persons in Massachusetts who have or had a residential Comcast cable television subscription.

A federal law, the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 (the Cable Privacy Act) tries to protect the privacy and security of subscribers’ information and give them control over how their information is used. It forbids cable companies from collecting, using, and maintaining information on customers and what they view except under limited conditions.

The Act requires certain things of cable companies:

  • That they must get the “written or electronic consent of the subscriber concerned” before collecting and using information.
  • That they must provide a yearly written statement to subscribers about the kind of use they make of subscriber data.
  • That they must not disclose subscribers’ personally identifiable information (PII) without the subscribers’ consent.
  • That they must make all of a subscriber’s PII available for the subscriber to inspect if the subscriber asks for it.

However, the complaint claims that Comcast regularly violates this law by collecting and using subscribers’ information without their consent. The set-top box transmits information two ways—to the subscriber and then back to the company. While some of this is necessary (for example, to charge the subscriber for pay-per-view programs), the complaint alleges that Comcast uses it to collect information about viewing habits.

Although the law says that Comcast must provide this information to the subscriber if asked for it, what it actually provides is only general information like the subscriber’s name, address, and telephone number, without any video activity or demographic data.

How do we know what Comcast collects? The complaint says that the company “advertises services that depend on the collection, maintenance, and use of data that personally identifies individuals[.]” Those services include things like targeted advertising to its subscribers, which allows Comcast to charge extra for the advertising.

The complaint charges that in addition to viewing histories, Comcast collects information on incomes, ethnicities, education level, cars, product purchased, and where they live. It gets this information from other sources, like credit companies, and adds them to the information it already has. 

It goes even farther: The complaint says that “Comcast touts that its user profiles further identify (and follow) the subscriber to his or her computer or other internet-enabled devices, gather data on social media and other use, adding that data to its user profiles…” This allows it to promote “multi-screen advertising.”

However, when subscribers request to see the information Comcast has gathered on them, they are directed to the “My Account” page or app. This does not even begin to display the information that the company has gathered on subscribers.

Article Type: Lawsuit
Topic: Consumer

Most Recent Case Event

Comcast Use of Subscriber Info Massachusetts Complaint

April 25, 2019

How much information about your private view habits is your cable company allowed to collect without your consent? The complaint for this class action alleges that Comcast Cable Communications, LLC violates subscribers’ federal privacy rights and Massachusetts consumer protection laws by gathering, maintaining, and using their data without their consent.

comcast_cable_privacy_act_complaint.pdf

Case Event History

Comcast Use of Subscriber Info Massachusetts Complaint

April 25, 2019

How much information about your private view habits is your cable company allowed to collect without your consent? The complaint for this class action alleges that Comcast Cable Communications, LLC violates subscribers’ federal privacy rights and Massachusetts consumer protection laws by gathering, maintaining, and using their data without their consent.

comcast_cable_privacy_act_complaint.pdf
Tags: Collecting Personal Data Without Notice/Consent, Using Your Private Information Without Consent, Your Privacy