The six-year fight over the type of harm a plaintiff must allege to satisfy the “injury in fact” requirement for lawsuits alleging false reporting of credit information took its latest turn this week. On Tuesday, August 15, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, on remand from the United States Supreme Court, issued its opinion- hyperlink to the opinion] in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, a highly-watched case challenging whether a plaintiff can satisfy Article III standing based solely on a technical violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Plaintiff Thomas Robins brought a putative class action for willful violations of the FCRA against Spokeo, Inc., a company that generates profiles about people based on publicly available data. Among other things, Robins averred that Spokeo published an allegedly inaccurate profile about him on its website and therefore harmed his employment prospects at a time when he was out of work. The Ninth Circuit’s three-judge panel held that the publication of materially inaccurate information about Robins sufficed as concrete injury for purposes of Article III standing, even without specific allegations of tangible harm from that publication.
On Monday, May 16, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its highly anticipated opinion in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, a case that examined the question of whether a plaintiff who sued for a technical violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act could maintain Article III standing for a class action without claiming any real-world injury. The case before the Court involved a putative class action brought against petitioner Spokeo, Inc., a company that generates profiles about people based on information obtained though computerized searches. Respondent Thomas Robins was one of the people with a profile on Spokeo’s website. According to Robins, the information on that profile was inaccurate. Robins filed a class-action complaint against Spokeo in federal court, alleging violations of the FCRA, which requires consumer reporting agencies to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of” consumer reports. The Ninth Circuit held that by alleging the violation of a statutory right Robins had satisfied the injury-in-fact requirement of Article III standing.
On Wednesday, January 5, the FTC released a report titled “Big Data: A Tool for Inclusion or Exclusion?” The Report addresses the effects of the growing use of big data analytics on low-income and underserved populations, and the FTC’s role in monitoring and regulating the impacts of this commercial use of big data. There are two high-level takeaways from the Report: First, big data is a powerful tool that can be used to include or to exclude. Used responsibly, it can be a key to unlocking opportunities for underprivileged and underserved classes; but, when used with disregard for its effects, big data can serve to shut the underprivileged and underserved out of those same opportunities. Second, the FTC will be the cop on the beat. The Report’s emphasis on the tools at the FTC’s disposal for regulating the use of big data analytics, signals that the FTC intends to make use of its enforcement powers where it can.
In the report issued by the FTC yesterday, the FTC calls on Congress to consider enacting targeted legislation to provide greater transparency for, and control over, the practices of information brokers and to allow consumers to access their data maintained by information brokers. The FTC notes that Congress could model any such legislation on a bill that the House passed during the 111th Congress, as well as similar bills introduced in the 112th Congress. These bills included some data accuracy and access provisions that were targeted specifically to information brokers. The bills are detailed in this blog entry.
FTC Chairman Leibowitz: “Congress needs to fix the unintended consequences of the legislation establishing the Red Flags Rule – and to fix the problem quickly.”
The Personal Data Privacy and Security Act (“PDPSA”), recently reintroduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee proposes comprehensive federal regulation of data broker services. While enactment of the PDPSA remains uncertain, the draft legislation may presage future legislative and regulatory trends. Comprehensive Federal Regulation of “Data Brokers” Title II […]