A proposed class action claims RocketReach, LLC has overstepped an Illinois privacy law by using residents’ identities to sell subscriptions to its paid database service without first securing consent to do so.
According to the 12-page lawsuit, RocketReach operates a website through which users can search for information about specific individuals, including their location, work history and education. Per the case, RocketReach’s service is initially free to use, and displays limited information about the searched person along with an advertisement for the company’s monthly subscription service.
“In other words,” the complaint alleges, “RocketReach does not offer to sell information about the individuals searched on its website, but rather, uses their identities to sell subscriptions to its paid service.”
The problem, according to the suit, is that the people who appear in RocketReach’s advertisements never provided consent, written or otherwise, for the defendant to use their identities “for any reason, let alone for marketing purposes.” The lawsuit claims RocketReach’s use of Illinois residents’ identities for commercial gain and without their consent violates the Illinois Right of Publicity Act (IRPA).
Per the lawsuit, RocketReach sells access to what it purports to be “the world’s largest and most accurate database of emails and direct dials.” Through a paid RocketReach subscription, customers can perform searches on anyone in the company’s database and gain access to their email address, phone number and “complete work history,” the suit explains.
When a website visitor performs a search on RocketReach’s site by typing an individual’s first and last name, the user is shown a landing page with entries that match the searched name alongside “certain uniquely identifying information,” such as the individual’s location, a preview of their email address, their work information, their job title and a link to their social media profile, according to the complaint.
The page also displays an advertisement that says RocketReach “found phones” for the searched individual, and that the user can upgrade to RocketReach’s “+Phone plans” to gain access to the information, the case says.
Per the suit, the advertisements are intended to sell subscriptions to RocketReach’s services, not just access to the searched individual’s information. According to the case, the defendant has “misappropriated people’s identities,” including their names and other identifying information, for its own commercial benefit without obtaining written consent or notifying proposed class members that their information was being used for marketing purposes.
“Plaintiff and the Class members have no relationship with RocketReach whatsoever,” the complaint attests.
The lawsuit, which echoes similar suits filed against Ancestry.com, Classmates.com, Spokeo.com and Intelius.com, says it is a violation of the Illinois Right of Publicity Act to use state residents’ attributes, including their names, signatures, photographs, images, likenesses or voices, for the sale or advertisements of goods, merchandise, products or services without obtaining authorization to do so.
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