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SCOTUS Hears Oral Arguments in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins


You may remember back to our previous blog where we discussed what is at stake in the case of Spokeo v. Robins, a case tackling the question of boundaries between rights to public information and personal privacy. The Supreme Court heard the oral arguments in this case on Monday, November 2.

As a reminder, the plaintiff’s case against the “people search” website alleged that incorrect information posted by the company was both a threat to his job prospects and a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Robins’ case was originally thrown out in court because there was no evidence that the information Spokeo reported actually hurt him (the damages in this case are purely hypothetical in nature). Still, an appeals court revived his case, and now the question is whether the Supreme Court will allow the case to proceed at all.

Spokeo operates by collecting information from a wide range of public sources, including phone books, social networks, and real estate listings, and compiling the information in their searchable database. The problem is that there is no guarantee that any of the information is accurate. In Robins’ case, Spokeo incorrectly reported that he is in his fifties, that he has children, and that he possesses a graduate degree, none of which is accurate. Under the provisions of the FCRA, he is seeking compensation for each violation of the statute on behalf of a class potentially involving millions of people. If the case is allowed to continue, Spokeo is concerned that this would open the door to an abundance of “frivolous” lawsuits involving plaintiffs who have not actually been harmed.

A ruling in favor of Spokeo could mean that future lawsuits of this kind will no longer be possible, nor will a host of other equally important civil rights lawsuits. People would no longer have any rights or control over the use of their personal information.

We at Atlas Consumer Law fervently hope that the Supreme Court rules by upholding the appellate court.

To hear the full audio of the oral arguments heard last week by SCOTUS, please click here.