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SCOTUS case pits consumers against ‘people engine’ Spokeo




The US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, November 6, 2013.
The US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, November 6, 2013.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

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The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case that could have far-reaching consequences for the data broker industry.

The case involves Thomas Robins, a Virginia man who filed a lawsuit against Spokeo for disseminating incorrect information about him on its search engine. Robins sued the company -- which collects publicly available information on individuals and sell them online -- under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers can sue a company for anywhere between $100 to $1,000 for harm caused by inaccuracies in his Spokeo profile. Robins wants to turn his lawsuit into a class action suit, meaning that Spokeo is found to be at fault, it could face millions of dollars in damages.

What SCOTUS will decide is whether Robins can reclassify the case as a class-action suit. Spokeo and its supporters say that given Robins was not harmed, the suit should not be able to proceed as a class action.

Guest:

Joe Jacquot, a partner at the law firm, Foley and Lardner in DC, and former deputy attorney general of Florida. He co-wrote an amicus brief in support of Spokeo

Gautam Hans, Policy Counsel and Director of the San Francisco chapter of the nonprofit advocacy organization Center for Democracy and Technology. He co-wrote an amicus brief in support of Thomas Robins, the petitioner