Skip to Content

Privacy & Data

Center for Democracy and Technology Files FTC Complaint Against Spokeo, Inc.

Washington, DC — The Center for Democracy and Technology today filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Spokeo, Inc., the online data aggregator and broker. CDT’s complaint points to Spokeo’s willful violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the company’s unfair and deceptive business practices as cause for the FTC to investigate the company. CDT hopes the FTC will view this complaint as an opportunity to tackle the growing issue of online — and offline — data aggregators offering unregulated consumer profiles.

Spokeo offers detailed profiles about millions of Americans on its website,  These profiles include highly personal information, including religious and ethnic background, judgments about shopping and recreational habits, and information about family members and roommates.  Spokeo also purports to offer “Credit Estimate” and “Wealth Level” ratings for the millions of persons in its database, and actively encourages employers to access its database in evaluating potential hires.

“Consumers have clear rights and protections under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and Spokeo cannot exempt itself from the law by simply declaring that it doesn’t apply,” said Justin Brookman, senior resident fellow at CDT, “Spokeo’s service is particularly troubling as much of the information is inaccurate or misleading, and the site is marketed to employers and other decision-makers who could rely on the advertised credit, wealth and lifestyle data to make negative judgments about consumers without their awareness.”

The offer of what amounts to, by legal definition, a “consumer report” places Spokeo, Inc. under the purview of the FCRA, which includes clearly-defined measures a “consumer reporting agency” must take to protect consumers. Spokeo offers none of these protections, which include informing consumers of adverse actions that can be taken by users as a result of information obtained on Spokeo, limitations on who can access the consumer report and for what purposes, and the opportunity to update incorrect or misleading information.

Spokeo also entices consumers to sign up for its paid service using deceptive methods.  For example, the site advertises that it offers mortgage, income, and investment information about persons in its database; however, when users sign up, none of that information is available.

CDT has requested that the FTC order Spokeo to follow the consumer protections enshrined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to stop using false and misleading solicitations, and to pay consumer restitution, disgorgement, and penalties under the FCRA.

The full complaint is available here.