When is a person harmed by a privacy violation?
The U.S. Supreme Court just handed down a decision in an important case, Spokeo Inc. v. Robins.
Plaintiff Thomas Robins sued Spokeo under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) because Spokeo had inaccurate information about him in its profile. Spokeo’s profiles are used by potential employers and others to search for data about people. FCRA requires that information in profiles for these purposes be accurate, and it allows people to sue if information is not.
by Daniel J. Solove
The FTC held a workshop this Monday about Big Data. The term “Big Data” is used everywhere these days, and depending upon who is talking about it, Big Data is either the hippest thing in the world and the producer of miracles that will save the human race, or it is the scourge of all evil and the doom of freedom and democracy. I think that neither is the truth, and I want to dispel some myths about Big Data:
I’ve blogged in the past about FreeCreditReport.com and the fact that I think it ought to be shut down. This is one of the rather obnoxious attempts by the credit reporting agencies to exploit people’s fears of identity theft as a tool to generate money.
FreeCreditReport.com is not free. You can get your free credit report at the official site, AnnualCreditReport.com.
You’ve probably seen the commericals, which run incessantly on CNN and other cable channels. A happy young man says: “I’m thinking of a number . . . ” That number is a credit score, which you can obtain at a website called FreeCreditReport.com. You probably have heard that under a new federal law, credit reporting agencies are required to provide each person with a free credit report once a year. That website, however, has the much more obscure name AnnualCreditReport.com. I previously blogged about my experiences using AnnualCreditReport.com. One of the problems is that if you don’t know that the correct website is AnnualCreditReport.com, then it is very easy to go to the FreeCreditReport.com website. After all, it is featured quite prominently in a Google search for “free credit report.”
But there’s one catch — it ain’t free. Far from it. From the fine print:
Recently, the FTC announced a settlement in its complaint against the data broker ChoicePoint for a data security breach that resulted in over 160,000 people’s personal information being sold to identity thieves. According to the Washington Post:
Under the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, the credit reporting agencies must provide a yearly free credit report to individuals who request it. This was one of the benefits given to consumers by the law in return for extending the federal preemption of certain state law regulations.
Bob Sullivan at MSNBC writes:
A second storm surge may soon start slamming into Gulf coast residents hit by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Mounting unpaid bills will lead to a surge of black marks on victims’ credit reports, say consumer advocates, sinking their credit scores. And now, they say, efforts to convince the nation’s credit bureaus to develop new systems to account for victims’ temporary bill-paying troubles have hit a major snag.
Consumers who can’t make their house payments any more – even if that house has been completely swept away by the storm – may face the ultimate penalty in America’s credit-driven society: A credit score so low they won’t qualify for the loans they need to start rebuilding.
Consumer groups, anticipating the coming surge of late payments and account defaults, have asked credit bureaus to help. The consumer groups proposed that the bureaus take a pre-Katrina credit score snapshot of all residents in the affected areas. Later, when victims apply for loans, the pre-Katrina score could be used to identify whether victims were good credit risks before the storm.
This year, pursuant to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) of 2003, credit reporting agencies must provide people with one free credit report per year. This is gradually being phased in this year. People can obtain their reports from this website: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp.
Earlier this year in his blog, law professor Eric Goldman discussed the difficulties and inconveniences he experienced when attempting to obtain his report.