Lawsuit highlights the challenge of privacy in digital age

Lawsuit highlights the challenge of privacy in digital age

Excerpted from latimes.com, by David Lazarus

For anyone who feels powerless about controlling their personal information in a world of search engines and public databases, take heart. A recent court ruling suggests you might have more muscle than you thought.

The case involves a Pasadena company called Spokeo, which operates a “people search” website that instantaneously pulls together information from publicly available sources.

The company says it helps users “know more about the people in their lives.” It does this by providing “access to social-media profiles, court records, criminal records, names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, marital status and more.”

Spokeo (rhymes with Tokyo) is one of dozens of such online services that have turned once difficult-to-obtain data into a readily available commodity, making it much harder for people to keep sensitive or embarrassing personal info under wraps.

A Virginia resident named Thomas Robins sued Spokeo in 2011, alleging that the information about him on the site was largely erroneous. According to the suit, Spokeo “incorrectly stated that he was in his 50s, that he was married, that he was employed in a professional or technical field, and that he has children.”

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