Actress Sues Amazon Because Her Age Appeared On Her IMDB Profile

from the it's-fraud-to-report-the-truth dept

Eric Goldman pointed us to a bizarre legal complaint against Amazon.com by an anonymous actress. Her complaint? That Amazon’s IMDB movie info site put her real age on her profile page. She claims that she never gave Amazon that info directly, but that it pulled the info from her credit card file, which she used to sign up for a “pro” IMDB account.

In Plaintiff?s case, Defendants were able to and did access Plaintiff?s personal and credit card information by intercepting and recording her confidential electronic communications without or beyond her consent, further using that information to cross-reference public records and other sources to obtain, among other things, Plaintiff?s legal name, age, date of birth, and other personal, confidential information, and making some of that unlawfully-obtained confidential information available to the public at www.imdb.com and other affiliated and unaffiliated websites.

By this practice, Defendants committed fraud, breached the terms of the Subscriber Agreement and Privacy Policy entered into with Plaintiff, and violated Plaintiff?s statutory privacy and consumer protection rights as described herein. Plaintiff brings this action seeking declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief to redress Defendants? unlawful conduct.

All of this… because she didn’t want her age identified on her IMDB page. The details behind all of this is that the actress is apparently Asian American, but does not use her real name for acting. Instead, she uses an Americanized name, and claims that she has been meticulous in not connecting the two identities at all. Thus, she claims that no one could possibly know the real age of the actress’ stage name, unless they could connect her real name to the stage name. She claims that in signing up for IMDBPro, she supplied her credit card, with her real name, which Amazon then used to identify who she was and to figure out her actual date of birth. The woman insists that she appears much younger, and that she’s suffered greatly from having her age revealed:

First, because lesser-known forty-year-old actresses are not in demand in the entertainment business, Plaintiff has suffered a substantial decrease in acting credits, employment opportunities and earnings since Defendants? addition of Plaintiff?s legal date of birth to the Internet Movie Database. Second, because Plaintiff looks so much younger than her actual age indicates, Plaintiff has experienced rejection in the industry for each ?forty-year-old? role for which she has interviewed because she does not and cannot physically portray the role of a forty-year old woman.

So what’s the actual legal issue? She’s claiming breach of contract, fraud, and violations of Washington State’s privacy and consumer protection acts. The details suggest that it’s not quite as crazy as it seemed at first… but still pretty crazy. First off, it’s not entirely clear that Amazon actually did what she claims (used her credit card info to establish her age). It’s entirely possible that the info on IMDB came from other sources. Second, even if it’s upsetting to her, it’s not at all clear that one’s age is the kind of info that could ever be deemed “private” or personally identifiable info that is subject to privacy rules. The case seems to hinge on whether or not there’s any real expectation of privacy in one’s age. I just can’t see a court buying that argument.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: amazon

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Actress Sues Amazon Because Her Age Appeared On Her IMDB Profile”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
77 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

So she claims they did something but it’s not clear if her claims are true. If only there was some kind of mechanism by which we could explore the validity of someone’s claims against another party. Perhaps some kind of adversarial tribunal overseen by some kind of impartial adjudicator…

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

its about how she CLAIMS they got the information.

While she might think there is an impenetrable wall around her, she is a “star”. She made herself a public figure and well funny that people dig into “stars” lives. The information might have appeared on IMDB from a submission made by someone else and not an evil cabal of wizards at Amazon using super computers to link her to everything she has ever done in her life.

She knows what the Streisand Effect is because she is hiding behind the Jane Doe name. People will figure out who she is, and then we can use her “star power rating” to see how silly this is. If she is an “A-list” star this is really sad, if she is a “D-list” star its sad but in a much funnier way.

If the only reason she can’t get work is because the world knows her age… there is something wrong. If IMDB is the goto resource for your casting director, I have questions about the level of cinema we are worried about.

Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I understand that the lawsuit is about how she claims they got her age information but…

How could those who employ her not know her age? Even if she can somehow keep it from them (which I doubt), what about the Screen Actors Guild? I seriously, seriously doubt the only way this information could have leaked is via her credit card (and do credit cards even have that info tied to them by anyone but the credit card company? Age is certainly not required for any credit card transaction I’ve ever completed at Amazon or anywhere else.)

If she’s saying Amazon got it from her credit report, well then… it’s not exactly well hidden if they have it either is it? (And why would Amazon have pulled her credit report?)

All in all, I think this info most likely leaked from one of a hundred different places than from Amazon. She may think she’s been meticulous in hiding it, but the reality is likely to be something quite different.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Re: @ "Manabi": try reading an entire paragraph.

Had you done so, you’d have found: ‘She claims that she never gave Amazon that info directly, but that it pulled the info from her credit card file, which she used to sign up for a “pro” IMDB account.’

And you wouldn’t be asking “If” and “why”: “If she’s saying Amazon got it from her credit report, well then… it’s not exactly well hidden if they have it either is it? (And why would Amazon have pulled her credit report?)”

For your further edification: credit reports are regarded as confidential, not public.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 @ "Manabi": try reading an entire paragraph.

You realise, of course, that none of what you just said contradicts Manabi’s post.

IF Amazon have taken the information from a confidential source, then questions do need to be asked and measures taken (although I still question why the information is so important to keep secret).

However, there are numerous other ways in which the information could have been obtained. It’s perfectly possible that they could have obtained it via honest means. If that’s the case, this is a big Streisand Effect waiting to happen, as the actress’ identity will be revealed eventually and she’ll just look silly for jumping to such conclusions.

Let’s wait until the case has been heard before making judgements either way.

Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 @ "Manabi": try reading an entire paragraph.

How about you try reading my post instead of trolling? So she paid for a pro IMDB account, that’s a credit card transaction. How could Amazon have obtained her age from that? Are you claiming that any company out there obtains your age when you purchase something with your credit card? (If so, proof please, because I’m not buying it and I doubt anyone else will either.) As I pointed out (and you quote, and ignore), why would Amazon have run a credit report on her anyway? They had no reason to do so, and I seriously doubt it would be worth the cost to them (they aren’t free) just to get the age of some relatively unknown actress to add to the IMDB. It just doesn’t make sense.

And yes, they are regarded as confidential, but there’s absolutely no logic here in how (or even why, getting her age isn’t enough) Amazon would have obtained one. Not to mention there’s no explanation for how Amazon obtained her social security number to run the report. That’s definitely not part of a credit card transaction, and notably, while the lawsuit itself says that signing up for IMDB pro requires providing personal information, it does not claim it requires a social security number. Given that would be quite pertinent in this case it would be mentioned. And if Amazon could have gotten a report so easily, just about anyone she’s ever used her credit card with could have obtained one as well.

Add in my original points, that it’s pretty much impossible that all her employers (aka, the people hiring her to act) could have not known her age, that the Screen Actors Guild probably knows it, that it’s likely in her credit reports, etc. and the most likely scenario is exactly what I said before: that any of a hundred different people that knew her real age due to various reasons added it to the IMDB, not that Amazon did something that makes not a bit of sense to obtain and add it. Is it possible that someone broke some confidentiality rules when adding it to the IMDB? Quite likely. But is it likely that Amazon was the one who did it? No, they really had no reason to do so.

Like I said last time, she may think she’s been meticulous in hiding her real age, but the reality is likely to be something quite different.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 @ "Manabi": try reading an entire paragraph.

For your further edification: credit reports are regarded as confidential, not public.

Sortof. They are “confidential” because of the contract you enter into with the credit reporting agency. If Amazon broke that confidentiality, that’s an issue between the reporting agency and Amazon. She would have no standing to sue, it would have to be Experian, etc. that did so.

On the face of it, it seems far more likely that Amazon got the information from somewhere else. They’re unlikely to go to the expense of running a credit check for a routine transaction like that.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Because they are Amazon!

She is not getting work so it must be the fault of Amazon via IMDB working in a great conspiracy against her.

This is not that far removed from the woman who kept suing Google or Yahoo because her name always came up with ED drugs or something stupid. It is always the companies fault because they have money.

Her lack of work is because if this, not because she made herself to unethnic to land those roles, because she rejects some so she isn’t forced into “that” box, because she is obsessed that her age is older than what she can play because she is so young looking.

Gawker was trying to figure out who it was, one of their interesting possibilities is someone who hasn’t worked since 2008.

Anonymous Coward says:

i thought anonymity was going away

I mean, she uses a fake name, and a fake birthday, and meticulously keeps them separate from her real name/birthday – one might argue this is precisely what certain upcoming laws are trying to prevent.

She’s clearly just an anonymous troll who deserves no protection – isn’t that why we’re passing all those cyber-bullying laws?

Sean T Henry (profile) says:

Re: i thought anonymity was going away

If she really wanted to keep her identity and age private she should have incorporated under her stage name and used a business credit card.

As for Amazon go to the judge and say “We move to have this case dismissed as we have no record for an actress by the name Plaintiff or Jane Doe, there for we have no age to be associated with her.”

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Asian American, 40yr old, Female, home in Texas….
follow the breadcrumbs….

One also has to wonder, why would IMDB charge “Stars” for IMDBPro access? When you can verify with agents and such they are the real person one would think that IMDB would be insane to try and gatekeeper out the people other people want to pay more to learn about.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This was a possible I saw posted on Gawker.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0036197/

Her bio reads puffed up enough –
“Stacy Arnell, is a versatile chameleon with an unforgettable presence and undeniable power on and off screen. She hails from Houston, Texas, and has the kind of magnetic charisma and personality that enhances any project she touches, whether it be a film a television show, stage play, or national commercial.”

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, here we go, 2 possibilities already… let the Streisand Effect take off!

There’s 2 outcomes here: either she’s right and she’s uncovered a serious problem with Amazon’s process, or she’s wrong and they obtained the information honestly, leaving her looking paranoid and vain.

Either way: by the end of this case, she will have been identified. Everybody interested in such things will know her name and her real age.

Even if she’s right and she has a case, all the work she’s done to keep her identities separate will be undone and her reasons for wanting a separate identity will be public, whether she likes it or not. All because she wanted to lie about her age…

Mike42 (profile) says:

This is interesting...

I really enjoy this question. You are not legally allowed to discriminate against anyone over 40, so she’s part of a protected class. Of course, in acting, they can hire anyone for any reason. Now that the cat is out of the bag, thanks to the Streisand effect, everyone will (eventually) know her real age. Now, if she had any sense, she would make her identity very public, and use THAT to further her career.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: This is interesting...

You are not legally allowed to discriminate against anyone over 40

Generally true, but there are certain situations where you are able to avoid hiring someone based on age, race, etc. if their status is directly relevant to the job. For example, you can legally “discriminate” against black people if you are making a movie and need to find an actor to play a white character.

Butcherer79 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Because of the nature of her claim, IF she wins in a court of law and IMDB has to withdraw her age from their site, then it would all be in vain if she took them to court using her real name.
I’m not saying that I think the suit is right, just that the court is right to keep her identity ‘hidden’ until a ruling either way.
I would say that the public profile of this case is all that contains the “jane Doe” monicka, there are bound to be other records which contain her real name which cannot be released as yet as the outcome is unknown.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Because of the nature of her claim, IF she wins in a court of law and IMDB has to withdraw her age from their site, then it would all be in vain if she took them to court using her real name.

It no longer matters whether she wins or loses, her “secret” is out. As a direct result of the case, there are at least a few people keeping tabs on all the profiles of 40-something Asian actresses. If she wins and her IMDB profile is updated, someone will notice and she’s outed.

hothmonster says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yes but the police entering your home,without a warrant, already violates the expectation of privacy because you expect your home to be private. If Amazon really did do what she said then it would be more like you inviting the police in to use your bathroom, then they start going through your medicine cabinet. But really its a horrible stupid analogy.

Tom says:

Re: Re:

no.

you are right, in that you correctly point out that the 4th amendment protects against POLICE conducting unreasonable searches. But private citizens cannot violate the 4th amendment. They can, however, commit a privacy tort. In this situation, it would be very difficult to establish that she had an expectation on privacy in her age. Especially if she really looks *so young* doesn’t that mean she has to show her ID at bars?

out_of_the_blue says:

You'll ALL regard this differently if ever reach 40.

“Second, even if it’s upsetting to her, it’s not at all clear that one’s age is the kind of info that could ever be deemed “private” or personally identifiable info that is subject to privacy rules. The case seems to hinge on whether or not there’s any real expectation of privacy in one’s age. I just can’t see a court buying that argument.”

A jury is highly likely to be middle-aged and low-key. They’ll side with plaintiff, especially when the fact of her age is directly related to opportunities and income.

JT says:

Re: You'll ALL regard this differently if ever reach 40.

I would think there would have to be some solid proof that IMDB actually made the change AND if it was a result of the credit card transaction. I’m guessing neither her, nor her lawyers, have any idea and she’s just making an assumption that it could have only happened by gaining credit card information.

Unless there was an issue with the credit card transaction and they ASKED HER for the information, there’s no other way Amazon could have gotten her DOB from her bank.

I don’t care about the age of the jury, if there’s no proof, there’s no proof.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: You'll ALL regard this differently if ever reach 40.

That’s what the discovery process in litigation is for. You get to examine IMDb’s witnesses and look at their documents to determine what they did.

If after discovery there’s no evidence supporting her claims, then Amazon can get the case dismissed on summary judgment.

Or, alternatively, I suppose we could let the public read internet articles about the case and decide based on their guesses. That doesn’t seem quite right, though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Is that actress pulling a Lohan?

http://theblemish.com/2011/08/lindsay-lohan-wont-be-making-any-comeback/

Since Lindsay?s unemployed, she needs to find other ways to make money. Hence, the lawsuit she filed against Pitbull over his song Give Me Everything. Lindsay claims the lyrics ?Hustlers move aside, so I?m tiptoein?, to keep flowin?, I got it locked up like Lindsay Lohan,? is damaging her reputation. Lindsay wants an injunction to stop the broadcast of the song and, of course, unspecified damages.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Second, because Plaintiff looks so much younger than her actual age indicates, Plaintiff has experienced rejection in the industry for each ?forty-year-old? role for which she has interviewed because she does not and cannot physically portray the role of a forty-year old woman.”

Sorry, that made this 45 yr. old woman laugh like a loon. And then I thought what a poor actress she must be that she can’t even play her real age…or what kind of idiot casting director thinks all women of any age look a certain way. If there’s a uniform then I’m glad I missed the memo.

She’s deluded if she thinks that her age can be concealed in this day and age. If it wasn’t Amazon (and really, why would it be?), then it was any number of sources, including any government agencies. Does she have a driver’s license? Passport? Family?

JMT says:

“First, because lesser-known forty-year-old actresses are not in demand in the entertainment business, Plaintiff has suffered a substantial decrease in acting credits, employment opportunities and earnings since Defendants? addition of Plaintiff?s legal date of birth to the Internet Movie Database. Second, because Plaintiff looks so much younger than her actual age indicates, Plaintiff has experienced rejection in the industry for each ?forty-year-old? role for which she has interviewed because she does not and cannot physically portray the role of a forty-year old woman.”

So she’s claiming she can’t get a job because nobody wants to hire 40yo actresses, presumably because they look ‘too old’, but then says she can’t get a job because she looks too young? WTF? Cognitive dissonance much?

I doubt the entertainment industry really gives a crap how old she actually is, only whether she can act and what she looks like. Hollywood has a long and inglorious history of using actors of a completely different age to the character they’re portraying. Maybe she’s just not a very good actor.

Strawbear (profile) says:

I have to agree with the actress, if the facts of the case are as you state. In the UK I’d imagine it would fall under the DPA and a company you give data to can’t give it to anyone else without your say so, outside of their own T&C.

I see how it looks petty in the extreme, but if you gave info to someone about yourself in assumed secrecy then found it on a popular website you might feel a little… invaded. I think its a valid and potentially important point.

I’d imagine even if they did take it from her sign up details tho, they’ll just lie and say they got it from Wiki.

Its an odd one, that’s for sure.

Tomsong (profile) says:

Actor age

This case sounds exactly like a woman I know, who has been insisting for ten years that Wikipedia has her age wrong. The more she (or her defendes) corrects the wiki information, the more the crowd corrects it back. I am pretty sure this is the same person. There are many ways of checking facts, and one source is the many people who knew you in high school and have the yearbook in hand. I am mad about privacy as anyone, but this case cannot prove her assertion about mining the credit card information.

Josh King (profile) says:

Ending in Tears

She can file anonymously, but that doesn’t mean the court is going to allow her to go forward that way. In fact, I expect it will not, as anonymous pleading is rarely allowed.

Secondly, I suspect she and her lawyers see the “real name on the credit card” as the only way IMDB could have gotten her age. They better hope they’re right, because if they’re not this case will quickly get stuffed under Washington’s very strong anti-SLAPP law. In which case her identity will be revealed AND she’ll pay Amazon’s legal fees and a $10,000 fine. That’s not a happy ending . . .

matics (profile) says:

I feel like this actress is over-reacting a bit.

At the same time, however, she has a valid point if her information is being accessed without her consent. That could be a major breach of privacy if these companies are not only storing people’s information without consent, but also posting it publicly without their knowledge.

While I don’t expect her case to go anywhere, hopefully Amazon will comment on what happened specifically.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...