Inaccurate information prevented him from getting a job
Robins, a Virginia man, claims that when Spokeo, known as the “people search engine,” posted the inaccurate information about him that prevented him from getting a job, causing him financial and emotional harm. At the time, Spokeo was marketing its information to businesses and human resources professionals. Robins is not the first plaintiff to take issue with Spokeo’s business practices, as the search site settled with the Federal Trade Commission in 2012 to the tune of $800,000.
Spokeo, Inc., is a website that uses public information to compile personal reports from aggregated data with the help of deep web crawlers. It obtains the information it places on its website from both online and offline sources. Founded in 2006 by a group who graduated from Stanford University, the site has evolved to become an information-gathering website that purports to know the income, religion, credit status, number of people per household, spouse names, and the satellite view of a given individual’s home.
More than 100 negative reviews
A registration is required to use Spokeo, but after paying, many of the users have found that the information shown on the free version of the site is inaccurate, and that attempting to cancel the service or get a refund is extremely difficult. The Consumer Affairs website has logged more than 100 negative reviews regarding Spokeo, with almost every post rating the company one out of five stars. Comments disparage the company’s business practices, such as:
• The service is a total rip-off.”
• This site is scam site. Don’t give them your money.”
• I demanded a refund and they only gave me $1.00.”
• Truly, is there no standard for this type of service?”
• I was so shocked to read this misinformation I became livid!”
• This company has no INTEGRITY. Their mistake cost me $$. BAD BUSINESS!!”
The suit against Spokeo seeks class action status, which under the U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act would authorize damages of at least $100 for each victim.
What is concrete harm?
Robins remains confident that American law has long recognized injuries stemming from the publication of false information. Regardless, the outcome of this case will have broad implications for businesses, as it could affect the laws governing copyrights, real-estate settlements, employee benefits, disabilities, and housing discrimination. Businesses supporting Spokeo in this case include eBay Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., and Yahoo! Inc.
The Supreme Court will hear the case during its term beginning in October, after rejecting a recommendation from the Obama Administration that categorized the appeal as a poor candidate for Supreme Court review.
The case is Spokeo v. Robins, 13-1339.