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Minnesota man sues Google over video rental history

The Google logo appears on the side of a building in Mountain View, California. (Photo by Lee-Sean Huang)

A Minnesota man is suing Google for purportedly violating a state law that requires video rental companies to destroy certain purchase records.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in a California federal court, says Google unlawfully preserves the purchasing and viewing history of streaming videos rented through the Google Play Store, YouTube and other Google-owned services.

Plaintiff Burke Minahan said the practice violates a Minnesota law that requires video rental companies to “destroy personally identifiable information as soon as practical, but no later than one year from the date the information is no longer necessary for the purpose for which it is collected.”

The Minnesota video rental history law is modeled off a federal statute called the Video Privacy Protection Act that requires companies to take similar steps to destroying video rental history records. It was passed by Congress after the video rental history of a Supreme Court nominee, Robert Bork was disclosed during his confirmation hearing. Bork’s nomination was rejected by the U.S. Senate.

Despite the laws, Minahan said Google takes no steps to proactively destroy the video rental history of its users as soon as practical, let alone within the one-year period as the laws require.

“As of September 30, 2022, Plaintiff’s account history still displayed the titles of the videos he rented, as well as the date he rented it and the price he paid for it, including videos rented over four years ago in 2018,” the lawsuit alleges.

Google also collects and preserves certain personal-identifying information from its customers, including payment information, in a Google account linked to its various services that offer video rentals, Minahan said.

The Minnesota law allows consumers to seek a minimum of $500 in damages if a company is found to have violated the video rental records law, even if a consumer cannot prove actual monetary damages connected to the issue.

The lawsuit is seeking class-action status on behalf of all Minnesota resident who have used Google’s services to rent videos over the last few years.

A Google spokesperson did not return a request for comment.