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Privacy Violation Lawsuits
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By Heidi Turner
More and more companies face lawsuits alleging their actions or negligence have compromised people's privacy. This privacy invasion can occur through internet data breaches, misuse of targeted advertising, or illegal monitoring of private communications. Even when purchases are made in person, there is a possibility of a breach of privacy if the retailer illegally collects customer zip codes or other identifying information. There are laws designed to protect consumers from illegal privacy breaches, but consumers may have to file lawsuits to ensure their rights are protected.
Invasion of privacy is the illegal sharing, intrusion, misappropriation, or exploitation of a person's private affairs when those affairs have no relevance to the public. In some cases, what would be considered an invasion of privacy in a private citizen may not be when applied to a politician or other public figure.
Invasion of Privacy
There are four main categories of invasion of privacy claims (although these vary depending on individual state laws):
There are laws designed to protect the privacy of individuals, although these laws are evolving as the use of the Internet and the collection of consumers' personal information becomes more widespread.
The Privacy Act (1974)—Protects individuals against an invasion of privacy from federal agencies.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (1986; ECPA)—Prevents the government and other third parties from accessing or sharing communications without proper authorization. The act protects communications that are stored as well as those that are in transit.
Financial Privacy Rule—Governs how financial institutions can collect and disclose consumer financial information (part of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act).
Safeguards Rule—Requires financial institutions to protect customer information (part of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act).
Various other laws, including the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) also protect Americans' private information.
Each of the states has its own laws concerning invasion of privacy, with differing levels of severity. For example, California has the California Invasion of Privacy Act, which is considered one of the more restrictive state privacy laws because it requires all parties give consent before certain communications can be recorded. Not all states have the same requirements for privacy protection.
Various companies face lawsuits alleging they left private consumer information vulnerable to hackers by failing to properly ensure personal information was stored safely. In such cases names addresses, medical information and even financial information have been accessed by unauthorized third parties who commit data breaches. These include Target, Home Depot, and Wendy's.
Internet Data Breaches
Some internet retail, social media, and app companies have faced privacy lawsuits alleging they violated consumer's rights by illegally collecting, monitoring, or disclosing user information.
Online Privacy Lawsuits
Facebook In 2014, a class action privacy lawsuit was filed against Facebook for allegedly data mining private messages, in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The lawsuit was filed by Matthew Campbell and claims Facebook uses private information to allow targeted advertising. In May 2016, the lawsuit was partially certified as a class action.
Snapchat In 2016, a lawsuit seeking class action status was filed against Snapchat, alleging users' biometric information was stored and used without informed consent. The lawsuit, filed by Jose Luis Martinez and Malcolm Neal, claims their biometric information was compromised, which puts them at risk of identity theft and is a violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.
Yahoo In 2013, a lawsuit was filed against Yahoo, alleging the company's monitoring of emails involving people who did not have a Yahoo account for targeted advertising purposes violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act. In 2016, that lawsuit was settled, with Yahoo agreeing to scan emails only while they are at rest on servers, rather than when the email is in transit.
Zip Code Collection Some retailers, including Kohl's, J Crew and Urban Outfitters, have come under fire for illegally collecting or using customer information obtained during check out at a store location. In some cases, retailers are accused of illegally requiring customers to give a zip code as a condition of paying by credit card, while in other cases they are accused of using zip code and payment information to send unwanted mail to consumers. (Not all collection of zip codes at a checkout is illegal; laws vary by state.)
Hulk Hogan Invasion of Privacy In 2016, Hulk Hogan was awarded $140 million by a jury—an award later upheld by a judge—after he claimed Gawker Media violated his privacy by including a photo of him involved in sexual intercourse with a friend's wife alongside an article about celebrity sex tapes.
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If you are a licensed driver with the Department of Motor Vehicles, chances are your private information has been sold. And your privacy and security could be at risk. Having worked on cases involving the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) for more than a decade, Attorney Joseph Malley says that Department of Motor Vehicles in 37 states are selling private driver information to thousands and thousands of entities. And Malley has filed cases involving about 145 million people [READ MORE]
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A medical supply company released personal information on my child including his health insurance information and information pertaining to a prescription we had with this particular company to some random woman on Facebook that I've never met before in my life. I need to know what my rights are immediately.
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