Amazon Opposes Actress' Bid To Revive Privacy Lawsuit

Amazon is asking an appellate court to uphold a decision clearing the company for publishing actress Junie Hoang's real age on IMDb.com.

“IMDb is in the business of publishing truthful and accurate information about the entertainment industry,” the company says in papers filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. “IMDb is not a social media site where users create and control their own profile, or where they may choose to misrepresent or omit information.”

Amazon makes the argument in response to Hoang's attempt to convince the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to revive her lawsuit against the company. Hoang says that IMDb.com violated its privacy policy by drawing on her credit card information to determine -- and post -- that she was born in 1971.

Shortly after Hoang first created an IMDb.com, she said she was born in 1978, according to court papers. She later decided that her profile shouldn't include any year of birth and asked IMDb.com to remove the date.

The company refused to do so without proof that the 1978 date was wrong. After Hoang persisted, a company employee allegedly accessed data that Hoang submitted when registering for a premium profile on the site. (Hoang used a stage name on her profile, but created the subscription under her real name; the credit card that she used to subscribe also carried her actual name.) Once IMDb.com determined Hoang's real name, the company searched through databases and determined her actual date of birth, which it appended to her profile.

Hoang said in her 2011 lawsuit against Amazon that these actions by IMDb.com violated its privacy policy. The company countered that its policy allowed it to draw on information submitted by users in order to respond to their requests. Amazon also said that it learned her name from her subscriber data, as opposed to her credit card.

A jury ruled against Hoang after a trial in April. She is now appealing that decision to the 9th Circuit. She argues that her original attorney, John Dozier, suffered from a serious, ultimately fatal illness, and wasn't able to prepare for the case. Her subsequent attorney was then forced to go to trial without enough information, as well as the opportunity to present expert witnesses, she says in her appellate papers. Hoang also contends that Dozier's illness prevented her from presenting witnesses who would have testified about the importance of age in Hollywood.

The Screen Actors Guild is among the groups backing Hoang's appeal. The organization says that its members have complained for at least 10 years about IMDB.com's unwillingness to revise information on the site -- including data that is accurate, but potentially compromises people's privacy. The SAG specifically says that female actors over 40 lose opportunities for work when their true age is published. “The loss of work that can result not only affects the actor’s ability to pay the rent or buy groceries, but also affects eligibility for health insurance and pension credits and can have lifelong and substantial consequences,” SAG argues in its papers.

But Amazon argues that those contentions aren't relevant to Hoang's lawsuit. “This case does not involve age discrimination,” Amazon says in its appellate papers, filed late last year. “IMDb is not involved in Hollywood casting decisions and certainly was not involved in any decisions whether or not to hire Hoang for any acting roles. IMDb simply published accurate information about Hoang.”
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