Class Action John Doe Lawsuit Filed Against Internet Dating Network

A class action, John Doe lawsuit filed late in 2011 should serve as a warning to anybody looking to build an affiliate marketing network without first consulting an Internet lawyer. Online dating business, Positive Singles, is being hauled into court – and could pay handsomely – for allegedly distributing members’ personal data across a network of websites without proper consent.

Online Dating John Doe Lawsuit: The Background

According to a lawsuit filed in Superior Court of the State of California, several users of the website positivesingles.com are suing for allegedly having their private information distributed and misrepresented to a network of websites. The site positivesingles.com is a place where adults with various sexually transmitted diseases can post a dating profile.

Positivesingles.com’s website assures users that they “care about [their] privacy more than other sites” and promise that their profiles are “fully anonymous” and “100% confidential.”

Online Dating John Doe Lawsuit: The Claims

Some members of positivesingles.com, though, claim a different story. Based on the filing, it appears that many users felt their privacy was not protected – evidenced by the fact that their online profiles were spidered to Positive Singles’ vast network of affiliate websites.

Most alarming, the claimants argue, was the fact that many profiles landed, without consent, on websites that misrepresented members’ situations. So, for example: non-Christians who signed up for positivesingles.com landed on chirstiansafehaven.com; others with other STDs and not AIDS landed on AIDSdate.com; straight participants found themselves on gaypozdating.com.

Claimants in the lawsuit are arguing that positivesingles.com is in violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”), California Civil Code § 1750, which regulates unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business practices.

It’s unclear whether or not positivesingles.com posted a terms of service outlining the fact that member profiles would be made available to their entire affiliate marketing network. If yes, the plaintiffs could have a tough time pleading their case. That being said, if there is a terms of service, and the wording is arbitrary or unclear, then positivesingles.com could find themselves paying large damages.

Online Dating John Doe Lawsuit: The Lesson

Positivesingles.com’s current legal fracas should serve as a warning to anybody setting up a large-scale affiliate marketing network.

And that lesson is: make sure you terms of service agreement and privacy policy clearly state how your affiliate marketing network actually works.

If your site intends to spider information to numerous sites, make sure that fact is conspicuously spelled out in your policies – it could save you an expensive class action lawsuit down the line.

Moreover, if your privacy policy says, “we do not disclose, sell or rent any personally identifiable information to any third party organizations,” make sure that’s the truth. Lots of free privacy policy templates found online include such language, make sure yours does not. Better yet, get an Internet lawyer to draft a proper terms of service and/or privacy policy for your website. They’re not expensive, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Most recently, John Doe lawsuits are also being used to go after people allegedly accused of downloading bittorrents of protected material. If you run an affiliate marketing network and are now facing a class action lawsuit, or if you’ve been mailed a “settlement letter” for downloading unauthorized content, contact the Kelly Law Firm. We’ve assisted hundreds with the same dilemma, and know all the ins-and-outs of litigating such cases. You can reach us anytime by using our contact form, or giving us a call at 1-866-570-8585.

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