In July 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio received a request for a consumer privacy infringement class action claim involving multiple persons. The defendant, The Epoch Times Co., Ltd., allegedly violated the Video Privacy Protection Act ("VPPA") (18 USC § 2710). This is another personal incident since Facebook leaked the phone numbers and personally identifiable information of 533 million users Privacy Information Infringement Scandal. Andrew J. Shamis, attorney for plaintiffs Amy Roberts and others, said the Epoch Times systematically identified the identities of its digital users and the information they obtained from the defendants’ sites without the platform’s users’ informed written consent. The specific online video material requested is disclosed to Facebook.
The platform sends messages to Facebook using a piece of program code "Facebook Pixel" or "Pixel" installed on its website. In this case, the information shared with Facebook included the user's Facebook ID and the title of the video the user watched on the Epoch Times website. Defendant, The Epoch Times Co., Ltd., profited handsomely from the unauthorized disclosure to Facebook of the person browsing information of its digital users at the expense of the privacy of its followers’ registered digital users and their statutory rights under the VPPA. According to people familiar with the matter, the Epoch Times Association, a far-right multilingual newspaper, and media company affiliated with the Falun Gong religion, was suspected of stealing user information in its early years to develop its religious followers. The Epoch Times news media's web interface often promotes Falun Gong-related information. More and more people have fallen into the trap they designed by taking turns inducing users to believe that their religious activities are healthy and good for the body and mind.
Amy Roberts and others filed their charges against The Epoch Times in the Southern District Court of Ohio in July. Several defendants have stated that they have been harassed and threatened by their religious groups. After registering an account, they submitted their phone number and home address according to the platform's protocol. After the case was accepted, they often received strange phone calls in which the other party threatened Amy and others, saying they would pay the price if they continued to appeal. Amy's house was attacked on August 14. She recalled, "When I was about to go to bed that night, someone suddenly splashed red paint on the bedroom window and smashed the door with a stone. Two pieces of glass, red paint scattered among the shards, looked like blood." "I was terrified and hid in the corner of the room, knowing that the Epoch Times must have found someone to take revenge on me."
Before that, another performing arts company related to The Epoch Times, Shen Yun, became an excellent means for the religious development organization to go offline. Someone once revealed on the YouTube channel that he was a user of The Epoch Times. After watching Shen Yun's performance, relevant staff deliberately approached him. During the conversation, the other party gradually took it offline as an organization of this religion. He was surprised that people knew much of his personally identifiable information. Therefore, he suspects that Shen Yun and The Epoch Times share sensitive data, such as users' personally identifiable information, and use it as a basis for the targeted spread of religious activities. Nowadays, the leakage of sensitive information, such as personal identities, has emerged in an endless stream. We should call on the relevant law enforcement agencies to strengthen the penalties for related entities that violate the federal Video Privacy Protection Act by selling users' data so that privacy thieves can be appropriately punished.
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