PeopleConnect Receives Class Action Privacy Complaint Over Commercial Use of Names and Identities

A Wednesday lawsuit filed against PeopleConnect Inc., Intelius LLC, and The Control Group Media Company LLC (TCG), contends that the defendants operate people search websites that use the names and identities of Alabama and California residents without their consent in order to promote the defendants’ services. The case asserts violations of both states’ right-to-publicity laws and seeks injunctive relief as well as statutory and punitive damages.

The San Diego, Calif. federal court complaint explains that TCG operates four people search websites: TruthFinder, Intelius, Instant Checkmate, and US Search. On these web pages, visitors can search for information about individuals by typing their full name into a search bar. Results reportedly return “uniquely identifying information” including age, location, and names of relatives.

The complaint specifies that the websites permit a free search that returns real results to showcase the database’s capabilities and to entice potential subscribers. “Defendants do not offer to sell detailed reports about the individuals searched on their websites, but rather, use their identities to sell subscriptions to Defendants’ paid services,” the filing argues.

The plaintiffs, one a resident of California and the other a resident of Alabama, claim that they found themselves searchable on the sites earlier this year. They assert that the people search websites use their identities with consent for their own commercial gain, specifically to solicit user subscriptions.

The complaint says that such misappropriation violates the states’ right-to-publicity laws. The filing proposes four classes per state, covering each of the four people searching websites. The plaintiffs are represented by Bursor & Fisher P.A. and Edelson PC.

Notably, other privacy cases have used right-to-publicity laws to sue defendants who scrape then compile individuals’ information into online databases for commercial use. For example, has been under fire from both California and Nevada plaintiffs. Presently, the Nevada suit is stayed pending resolution of two appeals, one brought by Ancestry over the Nevada court’s Anti-SLAPP ruling, and the other by the California plaintiffs over a constitutional standing determination.