CDD files Amicus brief on Spokeo case for the Supreme Court

By: Jeff Chester | Sep 11 2015

CDD has filed an amicus curiae brief in a potentially landmark case now before the Supreme Court—Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins—in which the corporate plaintiff seeks to overturn a decision of the Ninth Circuit Court that Thomas Robins has standing to bring suit against Spokeo (a self-proclaimed “leading people search platform using proprietary technology to organize information into comprehensive yet easy-to-understand online profiles”) for violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Robins contends that through the company’s dissemination of “inaccurate consumer information that is marketed to entities performing background checks,” it has violated the FCRA—even in the absence of Robins demonstrating that actual harm had resulted from the inaccurate data. 

The FCRA, it should be noted, grants individuals a private right of action to sue for statutory damages without any proof of injury. In contrast, the federal judiciary’s governing standard—the so-called “Article III standing” for bringing suit—requires a plaintiff to have suffered an “injury in fact” that is “traceable” to the defendant’s alleged action. Thus in this instance, Article III standing would require Mr. Robins to demonstrate actual harm—denial of credit or diminished employment opportunities, for example—before bringing suit against Spokeo. It will be up to the Supreme Court, in other words, to determine “[w]hether Congress can create Article III standing by authorizing a remedy for a bare statutory violation.”

The purpose of CDD’s amicus curiae brief is to explain the context in which this case arises: the pervasive collection, sale, and use of personal data that, if inaccurate, causes real harm to individuals. As CDD’s brief makes clear, “Data brokers collect vast amounts of data about individuals browsing the Internet or using their smartphones, combine these data with data from other sources (which can be inaccurate or unreliable), create profiles of individuals, categorize individuals into groups such as ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Xtra Needy’ for marketing purposes, and sell these data to third parties that use the data to make important and sensitive decisions about employment, credit, and other aspects of people’s lives. Because data brokers collect so much information about so many different people from so many sources, inaccuracies are inevitable.”

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See attached document.

For more information, visit https://www.epic.org/amicus/spokeo/.

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