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eBay, Google, Others Make Joint Appeal to Supreme Court

Litigation makes strange bedfellows – four Internet rivals have joined forces to make an appeal to the Supreme Court. We wrote yesterday about eBay helping Google in its fight with antitrust regulators in Europe. Now comes news that eBay, Facebook, Google, and Yahoo have joined forces to fight in a case that the Supreme Court said Monday it agreed to hear.

The case involves a data aggregator/search engine called Spokeo that published incorrect information about an individual who was concerned it would impact his job search. He filed a class action lawsuit, citing the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

As Mediapost explains, Spokeo appealed to the Supreme Court saying the Appeals court should not have overturned a dismissal of the lawsuit by a lower court that said the jobseeker had not detailed how he suffered financial harm as a result of the incorrect profile on Spokeo.

eBay and its rivals explained why they believe the high court should overturn the Appeals Court decision.

Permitting such “no-injury” lawsuits to proceed has an increasingly negative impact on amici due to the broad-scale nature of their operations. Amici interact with hundreds of millions of users each day, using highly efficient automated mechanisms to process and facilitate billions of transactions and interactions. These mechanisms enable amici to unlock the power of the Internet and to deliver immense value to users. But this structure also makes amici vulnerable to the untoward consequences of the Ninth Circuit’s misreading of Article III and this Court’s precedent.

For an argument in favor of the Appeals court decision, see this opinion piece in the Huffington Post by Nathan Newman who writes, “The bottom line is that Ninth Circuit said corporations have to follow the law and consumers protected by FCRA have the ability to enforce the law in court, without corproate (sic) defendants throwing up additional procedural barriers.”

He referenced the amicus brief by eBay et al, writing, “The companies complain that they process so much data about so many people that the decision opens them up to liability from too many people if they violate the law – as if their control of so much personal data in the first place is not part of the problem. The brief is fascinating since it details the large number of lawsuits the companies are already facing that they hope a favorable Supreme Court decision could just make go away.”

Depending on which way the Supreme Court rules, the decision could have a major impact on eBay, Facebook, Google and Yahoo.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.