Intelius hit with class action alleging their personal info reports violate Illinois publicity rights law

By Scott Holland | Oct 26, 2016

The operators of Intelius, a website offering and selling personal information reports, faces a class action complaint alleging Intelius’ products violates Illinois’ law governing who can control that personal information. 

Lake Forest resident Michael R. Siegel filed his complaint in Cook County Circuit Court Oct. 20, targeting Inome Inc.,of Bellevue, Wash., operator of the website. According to the complaint, Intelius sells personal information to the general public and uses people’s names and likenesses for third-party marketing purposes related to its products and services — all without the consent of the people whose information constitutes each report. 

In his complaint, Siegel included computer screenshots to show what happens when conducting a Google search for his own name. The Intelius page for “Michael Siegel in Lake Forest, IL” was the first link, and clicking on that link brought up a list of various people named Michael Siegel, along with “approximate age, location and possible known relatives.” 

After clicking on his name, Siegel said, Intelius displayed a page with a map containing a marker near his home, partially redacted email addresses and phone numbers, social media network access and alias information. Intelius also offers what information is available to website users who pay for detailed reports, advertising data such as “criminal background, record of bankruptcy proceedings, liens, court judgments, aliases, lawsuits, marriages, divorces, status as a sex offender and other identity information.” 

The site doesn’t contact people to verify their information, Siegel said, and the process to correct erroneous records is “laborious.” The absence of content, and the practice of charging for access to the information, and even the advertising of that service, constitutes the privacy violation under the Illinois Right of Publicity Act, per the complaint. 

The class would include any Illinois resident whose information Intelius used “in connection with the sale, advertising or promotion of Intelius products and services from 2011” to the day the matter is resolved. A defendant class would include any entity in Illinois that “made public use of, or held out the identity” of any Illinoisan in connection with Intelius’ activity. 

Spiegel said Intelius’ practice of creating profile pages for people on its website violates the Illinois Right of Publicity Act by depriving people of “the right to control and to choose whether and how to use an individual’s entity for commercial purposes.” He also alleged unjust enrichment against Inome and requested an injunction or restraining order preventing Intelius from any further violations. 

In addition to class certification, Siegel seeks actual, statutory and punitive damages as well as legal fees. 

Representing Siegel and the putative class is attorney Larry D. Drury, of Chicago.


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