9Feb 2017
Feb 9, 2017

People search USA site suffers class action alleging improper marketing

People search USA Another people search USA based site has allegedly fallen foul of Illinois privacy laws. This has also spawned yet another class action. This claim is also further to a previous case around online people search engines in The Supreme Court.  It is claimed White pages incorrectly made use of individual’s names in order to market the individual’s search reports. This has been cited as an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practice that has been wrong in both theory and practice. The Illinois resident (Kevin Klingler) filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The suit alleges the people search USA site based in Seattle violated the Illinois right of publicity law. Mr Ryan Sullivan (Attorney) is representing Mr Klingler. The law firm is based in Chicago.

The action is one of many litigious complaints that have been brought in the past few weeks against people search USA based sites. The cases have been initiated in Cook County court. The search engines purports to assist individuals in unearthing information and detail around others. Other people search USA based sites targeted by lawyers and class actions were numerous. These were identified as Instant checkmate, Spokeo and PeopleLooker. The class actions contend an advertising technique (Dynamic Keyword Insertion) is contrary to the rights of Illinois residents under state law. There remains increasing and ongoing concerns by people search sites that they are becoming ever more vulnerable to lawsuits.

If an individual inputs the subject of their search i.e. a person’s name in to a popular search engine/ Then paid search advertising will kick in and seize that search and generates a web as aimed at that individual conducting a search. It does this by using a function that inserts the person’s name typed in to the ad. This then conveys the impression that the paid advertising by the various people search USA sites can assist the individual to unearth more information. The plaintiff claims, in respect of White Pages, the ‘personal’ ad served up invited Klingler to buy a membership. This membership allowing him to access information and details about himself.

The lawsuit claims White Pages exploits the identity of an individual for commercial gain. Internet users are induced to ‘clickthru’ sponsored (paid) ads and thereafter purchase a monthly subscription. The ad copy purports to hold valuable information on the subject being searched. The lawsuit contends that White Pages required “written consent” to use the plaintiff’s name in such a manner. The claim also requests the court to expand the plaintiff’s action to include additional claimants. These claimants to potentially cover all Illinois residents. Subject also to the manner of advertising on search engines and who have not purchased services or products from White Pages. Damages are sought at $1000 per violation as determined by Illinois law. Along with attorney fees and punitive damages,

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