Written by Julia Siripurapu
The practices of online data aggregator and broker Spokeo, Inc. (“Spokeo”) have come under the scrutiny of consumers and consumer privacy advocates for a while now, and have been on the FTC’s radar since at least last summer when the Center for Democracy and Technology filed a complaint against Spokeo with the Commission. Accordingly, it may come as a surprise to many that Judge Otis D. Wright II of the US District Court for the Central District of California recently dismissed a privacy law suit against Spokeo. The opinion can be reviewed here: Robins v Spokeo.
The Plaintiff, Thomas Robins, alleged that Spokeo operates its website (www.spokeo.com) in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), 15 U.S.C. § 1681. Specifically, Robins claimed that Spokeo.com generates reports that contain inaccurate consumer information and Spokeo markets these reports to entities, such as employers, performing background checks on individuals, and that he is concerned that Spokeo’s practices will adversely affect his ability to obtain credit, employment, insurance and the like. In response to Plaintiff’s claims, Spokeo argued that because it is not a credit reporting agency under the FCRA it cannot be sued for alleged FCRA violations and even if it could be sued under the FCRA, Robins does not have standing to bring such a claim because he did not allege that Spokeo caused him any actual or imminent harm. Judge Otis agreed with Spokeo’s lack of standing argument and dismissed the lawsuit.
Note that the Federal Trade Commission is still considering the complaint filed by the Center for Democracy and Technology -- stay tuned to see where the FTC comes out on this matter.