Supreme Court To Hear Spokeo People Search Case

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition from Spokeo, Inc. and agreed to consider a case involving their popular people search site.

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The case of Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins seeks a Supreme Court decision as to whether or not Spokeo should face a class action lawsuit over incorrect consumer information that was found in some of its people search reports.

Thomas Robins filed a class-action lawsuit in California on behalf of himself and other people under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), claiming that Spokeo published incorrect information on him which has cost him jobs.

Robins claimed in his original suit that his Spokeo report incorrectly stated that he has a graduate degree, which he claims has hurt his job-seeking efforts.

In January 2011, a district court ruled that Robins had failed to allege “any actual or imminent harm” done by his Spokeo report.

However, in February 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Robins could sue Spokeo under the Fair Credit Reporting Act “without showing actual harm.”

Spokeo is seeking to have the case dismissed, claiming that they are not a consumer reporting agency and FCRA laws do not apply to their people search service.

The legal issue being considered by the Supreme Court concerns whether or not people can sue consumer data brokers for a technical violation of the FCRA law even if they cannot prove that they have been harmed by incorrect information contained in personal data products.

In June 2012, Spokeo agreed to pay an $800,000 fine to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that the company allegedly marketed incorrect personal information to employers and recruiters without protecting consumers as required by the FCRA.

There is a lot at stake with this decision as is evidenced from the number of high-profile organizations and businesses that have filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of Spokeo.

Some of the largest companies in the technology and consumer data fields filed friend-of-the-court briefs backing Spokeo’s petition.

Some of the companies and organizations that have filed these briefs on behalf of Spokeo include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, Ebay, Pacific Legal Foundation, ACA International, Trans Union, Experian, Consumer Data Industry Association as well as the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.

The Department of Justice also filed a brief, asking the Supreme Court not to hear Spokeo’s case.

Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins will be argued and decided during the Supreme Court’s next term, which starts in October 2015 and ends in June 2016.

You can read more about Spokeo v. Robins on the Supreme Court’s blog at Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-1339.