Published by LawTechie - April 10, 2012 - LawTechie

Internet LawA new development in the Hoang v. Amazon.com lawsuit underscores the importance of drafting precise privacy policy language.

Last year actress Junie Huang sued IMDB on a myriad of claims including breach of privacy, fraud, breach of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act, and other state claims arising out of IMDB’s use of Huang’s credit card information to find and publish her birthday on her IMDB profile. Ms. Huang alleged that such use of her credit card info, which she provided during the registration of her premium account, was not in conformance with IMDB’s privacy policy and she, thus, had no idea that IMDB would use it to look up and publish her birthday (the publication of which, she argues, is harmful to her career).

The case went through some motion practice because Ms. Huang initially tried to litigate the matter as a Jane Doe plaintiff in order to protect her identity. The court subsequently ordered her to either proceed as herself or drop the case. She proceeded.

Now Ms. Huang has scored some points in her favor when the Washington District Court refused to dismiss the case:

The plain language of the [Privacy Policy] does not permit Defendants unfettered use of the personal information that Plaintiff provided for the purposes of processing payment.

In other words, IMDB’s privacy policy did not say that it was going to use Ms. Huang’s credit card info to research and publish her other personal information (in this case her birth date), thus Ms. Huang has a valid contract breach claim against IMDB.

Plaintiff’s biggest hurdle in this case will be proving how much, if any, damage was done by the revelation of her birth date. However, it should also be noted that Ms. Huang’s claim under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act, which carries a potential of treble damages and attorneys’ fees, was also sustained. Thus, this case serves as a major lesson in the importance of drafting a privacy policy to accurately reflect a site’s underlying business practices.

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.

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