Can you sue over bad information on the internet?

Divis Law handles FCRA claims.

Several people have asked me recently if they can sue under the Fair Credit Reporting Act for false information about them on the internet. That’s a murky question and I’m going to try to give a clear answer.

There is a LOT of information about everyone on the internet. Data brokers scoop information up, sometimes from many disparate sources; pass it around; aggregate it; and sell it to end-users for all sorts of purposes. Data collected consists of everything from our finances to our shopping habits; religious preferences to physical health; our criminal record history to our employment history. There are driving records out there; eviction records; and more. If there is a market for it, there is probably a data aggregator for it.

Some of these sources are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and some are not. Still, even when a data aggregation site or database site that has information about you is governed by the FCRA, you may not have a basis to sue if the information is wrong. You must generally also sustain a “particularized, concrete injury” in order to bring a claim for damages. That means you have to show some specific way in which you were injured. A Supreme Court case called Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins set the basic standard for this: false information, simply contained on a public website, without more, is not an injury that gives you a right to sue.

However, a recent D.C. Circuit Court decision suggests that if a prospective employer accesses that false information as part of a potential employee screening process, you may have sustained the kind of concrete injury that the Supreme Court said was necessary, and you may have a right to sue. The same false information, sitting there an not accessed by a prospective employer, however, would probably not give you that right. The question is whether you’ve sustained some kind of ascertainable damage.

If you’ve been denied employment, housing, education, or otherwise sustained injury because of false information about you on the internet, contact Divis Law. We might be able to help.

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