Federal Court Dismisses Consumer Privacy Action Brought Under California’s Shine the Light Act

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On August 24, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a putative class action alleging that Time magazine failed to establish procedures to comply with California’s Shine the Light Act (SLA). Murray v. Time, Inc., No 12-00431, 2012 WL 3634387 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 24, 2012). The SLA requires businesses to disclose to California consumers upon request any information collected and shared with third-party direct marketers. Alternatively, businesses can adopt a policy of not sharing consumer information without first obtaining consumer consent. All businesses must make consumers aware of their SLA rights by (i) maintaining a disclosure on their website and providing contact information for consumers to make a request about information shared with direct marketers, (ii) requiring customer service agents to provide the contact information upon request, or (iii) making the contact information available at every place of business in the state. The named plaintiff contends that by the nature of its business Time only could provide the required information on its website, and that it failed to do so. The court dismissed the case, holding that the named plaintiff suffered no economic or informational injury and therefore lacked standing to pursue his claims. The court held that the plaintiff’s general allegations concerning the “inherent monetary value” of consumer data are presented without any facts regarding the value of his specific personal information and therefore could not prove any economic injury. With regard to informational injury, the court explained that the plaintiff does not claim that he was deprived any information in response to a request, but rather that he was deprived of the ability to make the request. Such a procedural violation of the SLA, the court held, does not equate to informational injury. The court allowed the plaintiff to re-plead additional facts in support of his claim, but he may not add other plaintiffs or defendants.