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S.D. County woman sues video chat app for alleged privacy breach

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a San Diego County woman against the makers of video chat app Houseparty, which she alleges provided her personal data to third parties without her consent, in violation of the newly enacted California Consumer Privacy Act.

The suit was filed Friday in San Diego federal court on behalf of Heather Sweeney against Houseparty's creator, Life on Air Inc., as well as Epic Games, which acquired Life on Air Inc. in June 2019.

According to the complaint, Facebook and other third parties are notified whenever a user opens the app, allowing companies to "target the user with specific advertisements.''

Sweeney's attorney alleges this information sharing is not disclosed to Houseparty users, which the suit claims puts it in violation of the California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect at the beginning of this year.

In a privacy policy posted on its website, Houseparty states it does collect "basic registration details'' from users such as "name, email

address, birthday, and username and password when you create a Houseparty account,'' as well as usage information, such as how long a user chats with friends and information regarding items the user purchases through Houseparty.

However, the policy states that, "We only use the personal information we collect to help provide, support and improve Houseparty as

described in this policy, and we do not `sell' this information to third parties as that term is defined by applicable laws.''

It also states California residents have the right to ask the company what user information it has collected and shared, as well as the right to request deletion of that personal information without discrimination against the user.

The app has received considerable usage during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 50 million new users in the last month, many of whom are utilizing the service to connect with others who are self-quarantining, according to the plaintiff's attorneys.

"Consumers' information is of great value to companies as they are quickly strategizing on how to reach and appeal to current and potential consumers with Stay at Home orders still being enforced throughout a majority of America,'' plaintiffs attorney Joshua Swigart said. "With technology and the economic environment changing so rapidly, protecting your personal information is more important than ever.''

Houseparty has also denied allegations of compromised user data, which surfaced prior to the San Diego lawsuit.

Rumors that users' Netflix, Spotify and even bank accounts were being hacked were addressed in a March Twitter post from Houseparty, in which it stated that the hacking rumors were part of a "paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty.'' In its post, the company offered a $1 million bounty "for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign.''


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