HOW VIABLE IS THE PROSPECT OF ENFORCEMENT OF PRIVACY RIGHTS IN THE AGE OF BIG DATA? AN OVERVIEW OF TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS IN CONSUMER PRIVACY CLASS ACTIONS
By Matthew George1
I. INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW
A nationwide retailer is hacked and account numbers for millions of customers hit the black market for criminals to use to commit fraud. A hospital leaks its patients’ medical records on the Internet and reveals their diagnoses. Social media users learn companies are harvesting their private messages for data to sell them products. Each of these scenarios has become increasingly common news in the digital age of big data.
So where does that leave consumers when their personal information is exposed or misused? What recourse, if any, do they have in court when their privacy has been violated? While there are some laws that provide guidance on how personal information must be secured, many provide no private cause of action to consumers when their data is actually exposed. And, courts have dismissed many privacy cases at the pleading stage by rejecting plaintiffs’ theories equating the loss or exposure of personal data with monetary harmâdespite the undisputed fact that personal information is valuable to the companies that hold it and the criminals who want it.2