A proposed class action alleges “people search” website operator Spokeo, Inc. has used the identities of Illinois residents in its advertisements without securing permission to do so.
The 10-page complaint alleges Spokeo.com has violated the Illinois Right of Publicity Act, which prohibits the use of a person’s name, photograph, image or likeness or the purpose of advertising or promoting products, merchandise, goods or services without written consent.
According to the lawsuit, Illinois residents are entitled to an injunction requiring Spokeo to cease using their names and any attributes of their identities to advertise its products and services and awards of actual or statutory and punitive damages.
The lawsuit alleges that the purpose of providing users with these “free previews” is to entice them into buying Spokeo’s paid services, which include things like “address histories” and “court records” and cost around $19.95 per month.
“Spokeo uses these free previews to advertise its monthly subscription services whereby a user can access and retrieve ‘Profiles’ on any individual in its database,” the suit elaborates.
The lawsuit claims, however, that neither the plaintiff nor proposed class members provided Spokeo with written consent to use their identities in these “free previews,” which amount to de facto advertisements. As the complaint tells it, Spokeo could easily maintain its business model while still complying with Illinois law, including by, for instance, “merely display[ing] the names of the searched individuals—without more identifying information—in their advertisements for their services.”
Spokeo was involved in a seminal 2016 United States Supreme Court ruling in which the nation’s highest court vacated and remanded in a 6-2 decision a Ninth Circuit Court’s ruling that a class action lawsuit filed under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) could be maintained even though no concrete and particularized injury was sustained.