Judge Tosses Privacy Case Against UnrollMe

A federal judge has thrown out a  potential class-action suit against the inbox cleanup service UnrollMe and its parent Silica Technologies Inc. over UnrollMe’s data practices, saying the firm did nothing illegal. 

The decision could have an impact on how brands and consumers deal with privacy policies in the U.S. Unlike the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), U.S. law puts the focus on real harm -- not possible harm -- this opinion seems to find.  

In granting UnrollMe’s motion to dismiss, U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken found that plaintiffs Jason Cooper and Meghna Parikh had standing to file the case. But he rejected their arguments that they had suffered harm from UnrollMe’s sale of anonymized email data to third parties, saying this was covered in their privacy policy.  

He also debunked their assertion that this privacy policy is misleading because it says "only that UnrollMe may sell consumer data, not that it would do so."

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Oetken wrote that “this distinction is without difference. If I ask you if I may enter your house, and you say yes, you have given me permission to enter your house.”

This finding flies in the face of a case against Google in the Northern District of California, which found that this disclaimer "was insufficient to demonstrate consent."

But Oetken added: "This Court respectfully disagrees."

The plaintiffs contended that UnrollMe could potentially sell de-anonymized data, but Oetken stated that "the complaint does not adequately allege that UnrollMe did this."

The judge also refused to find that UnrollMe’s behavior is unconscionable, as the plaintiffs charged. He wrote that, while Unroll Me 's conduct may seem unconscionable in the colloquial sense, Plaintiffs have not shown that it is unconscionable in t he legal sense.”

Specifically, he held that "mere fact that the privacy policy is a dense take-it-or-leave-it contract does not render it procedurally unconscionable."

He acknowledged that UnrollMe users simply wanted to clean up their inboxes. “But it is also true that those consumers agreed to the Faustian bargain that undergirds much of the internet: you give me a free service, and I suppress the knowledge that you are probably selling my data to digital touts.”

He concluded, “We may not like it, but it is not per se unlawful.”   

The case is on file with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

 

 

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