There is a case pending in the Northern District of California that could have broader implications for companies that collect and share data, especially public record information. As noted in a blog from the plaintiff firm, Cohen and Milstein, the firm
filed the first amended class action complaint [in November 2022] on behalf of plaintiffs who claim that Thomson Reuters’s CLEAR platform not only surreptitiously collects vast quantities of Californians’ personal data but then sells this information to third parties, including commercial and government entities in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law and California’s common law of privacy.
The case has an interesting history. Steptoe blogged in late 2021 that
plaintiffs claimed that Thomson Reuters violated individuals’ right of publicity by selling “detailed cradle-to-grave dossiers” on them as part of its background check services; this information is pulled both from publicly available information (such as social media profiles), and “information from third-party data brokers and law enforcement agencies that are not available to the general public, including live cell phone records, location data from billions of license plate detections, real-time booking information from thousands of facilities, and millions of historical arrest records and intake photos.” On August 16, 2021, the court granted Thomson Reuters’ motion to dismiss based on its finding that Thomson Reuters did not appropriate the plaintiffs’ name or likeness for a commercial advantage, which is a required element under the California statute.
In December 2022, the plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint.
- Thompson Reuters’ motion to dismiss and motion to strike (April 5, 2021)
- Order on Thompson Reuters’ motion to dismiss (granting in part, denying in part) (August 16, 2021)
- Plaintiffs’ first amended complaint (December 2, 2022)
- Plaintiffs’ motion to certify class and memorandum in support (December 14, 2022)
Eric J. Ellman is Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) in Washington, DC. He also served for eight months as Interim President and CEO of the Association. More