Guy Comcast Got Fired Now Suing Comcast For Violating Federal Privacy Law

from the karma's-a-bitch dept

In the most recent example we covered of Comcast's ongoing efforts to convince everyone not to be Comcast customers, we noted that the fact they helped get a customer fired from his accounting job was the kind of thing he could probably sue over. That said, even I didn't anticipate the guy accusing Comcast of violating federal law.
The plaintiff, Conal O’Rourke, claims that after a series of calls with Comcast’s customer service department, Comcast complained to his employer about him and he was fired from his job. The lawsuit filed yesterday is based on the same alleged series of events. Mr. O’Rourke claims that he did not authorize Comcast to disclose his information to anyone else, but Comcast nevertheless disclosed personally identifying information about Mr. O’Rourke, including his name, to PricewaterhouseCoopers, where Mr. O’Rourke worked. The following can be attributed to Laura Moy, staff attorney at Public Knowledge:

“If the facts in this complaint are true, they are extremely troubling. They would show that the nation’s largest cable provider exercised a complete disregard for federal privacy law."
Now, it should be noted that O'Rourke is accusing Comcast of having divulged identifying information to his employer, such as the fact that he was employed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, not his personal viewing or web-browsing habits with his employer, but that doesn't really matter. The fact is that ISPs and cable companies are privy to all kinds of personal information pertaining to their customers, and the confidentiality of such personal information is governed by the Communications Act. The sharing of even seemingly harmless identifying personal information represents a pretty massive screw up on Comcast's part. A cable company willing to bend or break the law and reveal innocuous information perhaps shouldn't be trusted to act better with more personal information. The fact that all of this is made more problematic because of a complete lack of competitive choices for consumers wasn't lost on the lawyers either.
"For many Americans, there are few broadband and pay TV choices in their areas. As regulators consider the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, we hope they will follow this case closely. The facts alleged in this complaint, if they are true, along with the admitted customer services failing that led to this dispute, suggest that Comcast habitually puts its interests above all else even to the point of disregarding the law.”
Remember, Comcast cares. The insane part of all this is that Conal O'Rourke has been screaming at the top of his lungs for Comcast and/or his former employer to release both the emails that got him fired and the recordings of all his phone conversations with Comcast, so that he can clear his name and get a new job at another accounting firm. To date, his employer and Comcast, the company that cares, have declined to do so.

Filed Under: conal o'rourke, lawsuit, privacy
Companies: comcast


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 21 Oct 2014 @ 10:45am

    The simple fact that we're asking questions like "should Comcast be allowed to merge with TWC or not?" rather than reasonable questions like "should Comcast be broken up as an illegal, anticompetitive monopoly or not?" or "should Comcast execs be prosecuted for the crimes that the company has committed or not?" shows just how insane the current political climate is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:46am

      There's a reason why...

      Harry Whittington expressed conspicuous contrition for making Vice President Cheney shoot him in the face with a shotgun.

      Clearly not in Kansas anymore.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 10:45am

    At this point it is a serious liability to be a Comcast customer under any circumstances. Its like Hotel California.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 10:47am

      Re:

      Whoa, don't refer to songs from that group we're not supposed to talk about, sung by that guy who shall remain nameless!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        PRMan, 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:58am

        Re: Re:

        Plus it was released in 1972, so who knows how much liability you just opened Mike up to by even mentioning the title.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 2:37pm

      Re:

      Best thing you can do is forget about a guy, a group, and some unimportant songs. A few years of that usually cures this issue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 10:49am

    The discovery process of the lawsuit should allow the release of the emails that were interchanged.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      limbodog (profile), 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:27am

      Re: Discovery

      Interestingly enough, it appears that an unexpected event caused the loss of the hard disc containing that email chain. Oddly, it only affected that particular email chain. Funny that!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 10:50am

    There is a new Comcast propaganda op, err I mean commercial out there which goes on about the haves and have nots with respect to broadband access. I suggest TD call them out on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:00am

    Anyone else think the PCAOB should get involved?

    After all, Comcast does admit that there were several problems with this guys service and billing. And once they were mentioned, they did appear to take him more seriously.

    If you have a problem with Comcast billing, maybe you should factually and calmly document your issue and forward it to them.

    Also, as should be obvious, you should record every phone call you make with Comcast. It should be legal, since both parties know they are being recorded. I don't think it matters if both parties know who all is recording them! Conal's complaint is that they won't release it to him. However, if he had his own copy, well... he could probably make a nice chunk of change based on the number of YouTube views that would have.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      PB, 22 Oct 2014 @ 2:45pm

      Re: Anyone else think the PCAOB should get involved?

      Comcast's DVR service has recently started abruptly truncating recordings or skipping the whole recording process. Their technical support team says that it "affects a limited number of subscribers" and it will be fixed via a firmware update in November (at the earliest). When I requested that a note be placed in my account information that I be given a partial refund for the lack of service, the Comcast employee became VERY rude. I informed him that I would be recording the remainder of the conversation. I then stated for the record that the recording had started and asked for him to verbally acknowledge. it was amazing to listen to him try to squirm out of everything he had previously said. He even refused to identify himself or confirm the identity he had previously given me.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    fgoodwin (profile), 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:04am

    Plaintiff contradicts himself

    First, O'Rourke claims he never told Comcast he worked for PWC.

    Then, he claims Comcast googled his employment information.

    Assuming both are true, then Comcast got his employment info off the public Internet.

    So how is disclosing public information a violation of privacy laws?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:17am

      Re: Plaintiff contradicts himself

      Comcast contacting PWC about his account with Comcast is the violation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      steell (profile), 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:29am

      Re: Plaintiff contradicts himself

      They didn't get his "Name" off the internet

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 12:42pm

      Re: Plaintiff contradicts himself

      When Comcast contacted his employer, they (Comcast) provided the employer with private information about O'Rourke -- starting with, "he's a Comcast subscriber" and then proceeding into the substance and content of the communications between O'Rourke and Comcast.

      None of that is public information. It should all be confidential and kept strictly between O'Rourke and Comcast until/unless O'Rourke chooses to release to any of {his employer, some other third party, the world}.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:49am

    Comcast cares, its just tough love. Nothing like getting fired to understand that internet speeds are not the most important things in life !

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 21 Oct 2014 @ 11:59am

    The insane part of all this is that Conal O'Rourke has been screaming at the top of his lungs for Comcast and/or his former employer to release both the emails that got him fired and the recordings of all his phone conversations with Comcast, so that he can clear his name and get a new job at another accounting firm. To date, his employer and Comcast, the company that cares, have declined to do so.

    With O'Rourke threatening (or hinting at) litigation, I'd guess that Comcast and PWC were hesitant to release anything for fear that O'Rourke would then claim that they were violating his privacy. (Yes, I could see this happening even if was saying, "Release everything.") Now that he's actually filed a lawsuit against Comcast, it's probably a smart choice at this point for Comcast and PWC to release nothing (unless/until mandated to do so), make no further comment, and wait for the lawyers to sort it out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 2:16pm

      Re:

      With O'Rourke threatening (or hinting at) litigation, I'd guess that Comcast and PWC were hesitant to release anything for fear that O'Rourke would then claim that they were violating his privacy.
      How is it a violation of his privacy if they gave it directly to him? (This is, after all, what he was asking.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 5:57pm

        Re: Re:

        Maybe Comcast and PWC were afraid he would take the information to federal prosecutors. One way or another Comcast is probably on the hook for something and digging the hole deeper daily. PWC may only be liable for being dumb enough to listen to Comcast unless Comcast is a PWC client.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Jack, 22 Oct 2014 @ 9:33am

      Re:

      Sorrykb - PWC is in violation of California Labor Code 1198.5 by NOT providing O'Rourke with a copy of the e-mail and all of their files from their investigation of him. Under the law above, all present and past employees have the right to obtain their personnel files including any documents relating to grievances or their termination. So no, there are NO privacy implications when it comes to PWC releasing that information - they are required by law to do so. The reason they aren't doing it is because Comcast most likely did exactly what they accused O'Rourke of doing - use their position as a large client and former partner at PWC to have O'Rourke removed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 21 Oct 2014 @ 12:09pm

    As bad as TWC is, I am not looking forward to the day Comcast takes it over. The saving grace may be that so many TWC employees they are fired that they will not have time to harass individual customers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 12:35pm

    I don't think that Mr. O'Rourke is upset that Comcast told PwC that he was an employee of PwC, pretty sure they knew that. I would imagine that Comcast told PwC that they were a big client, and Mr. O'Rourke is being a jerk.

    Also, Mr. O'Rourke doesn't want the personal information (emails, recordings) released to everyone, just himself. Your really can't sue companies when they give you what you ask for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 1:32pm

    I still can't fathom the government even considering the merger between Comcast and TWC. If anything they should be breaking them up into smaller entities, like they did with Ma Bell some time back. Good to know Comcast does not respect my right to privacy, and why should they, uncle Sam doesn't either.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 2:55pm

      Re:

      ⏫ This is the whole key to all the mess created by the major telcos.

      The city agreements to exclusivity also needs to end so that some competition begins.

      We are back to the days before anti-trust break ups as the majors have reassembled themselves into the same conglomerates they were before the break ups.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2014 @ 6:59pm

      Re:

      And therein lies the real problem: the U.S.Government has absolutely NO respect for individual rights or the Constitution. Corporations are simply taking the stand that if the Gummint is doing it, why shouldn't we? Same goes for the local police forces and the DOJ. "Hey! If they can do it, so can we!" Those arguments, I thought, ended with grade school recess. At least, that's what I was taught.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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