Commentary

Amazon: Actress Has No Legal Right To Conceal Age

A 40-year-old actress who says she looks “many years” younger than her age recently sued Amazon for posting her true date of birth on her public Internet Movie Database profile. The actress, who brought the case under the pseudonym Jane Doe, alleged that Amazon used information from her credit card to discover her true date of birth and then appended it to her IMDB.com listing.

She alleged in her complaint that she created a professional profile in Amazon's IMDb.com eight years ago. In 2008, she used a credit card to a premium IMDbPro account. Shortly afterward, her listing on the site allegedly was updated with her true age. She inferred that Amazon must have discovered her true age by using her credit card information to scour public records for data about her.

Amazon has now fired back with a motion to dismiss the case. “The display of plaintiff's date of birth is not false, misleading, deceptive, immoral or illegal,” Amazon argues. “Although plaintiff really wants her birth date concealed from the public, plaintiff has no legal right to keep it secret and plaintiff has no legal cause of action to force IMDb.com to remove it. So plaintiff has no claim.”

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The retail giant -- which denies that it discovered the actress's birthdate from information associated with her credit card -- makes a number of legal arguments. First, the company says the allegations are too speculative to warrant a trial. “Without any factual support, plaintiff makes the unreasonable assertion that her birth date could be obtained from no source other than her credit card data and that it is therefore her belief that Defendants obtained her birth date using her credit card information,” Amazon argues.

But Amazon goes much farther than simply saying the actress hasn't alleged sufficient facts to warrant a trial. The online retailer says that using data tied to credit cards to obtain birthdates isn't in itself problematic. “Even taking plaintiff’s allegations as true, despite the lack of factual foundation, defendants obtained non-private information from a public source,” the company argues.

What's more, Amazon contends, its privacy policy gives it the right to post information gleaned from data she submitted. That's apparently because the privacy policy has a clause giving Amazon the right to use people's information for a host of purposes, including “improving our site.” 

“Even if IMDb.com used Plaintiff's name, address or zip code from her credit card subscription to locate her birth date, such use is consistent with the subscriber agreement and privacy policy,” Amazon says in its court papers.

The case is pending in federal court in Seattle in front of U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenor -- who saw his own birthdate published in a 2006 article in The Seattle Times. Publishing birthdays “is very common, particularly for persons of public interest,” Amazon says in its motion, which contains the URL for The Seattle Times piece about Coughenor.

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