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.
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.