Junie Hoang

A lawsuit against Amazon.com’s Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for disclosing an actress’s age could have a larger impact on the way online companies gather and use personal information.

That’s the upshot of a New York Times article this morning, which digs into the case of the 40-year-old actress who sued Amazon.com’s Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for revealing her age.

The actress, Huong Hoang, known by the stage name Junie Hoang, alleges that IMDb wrongly published her age based on the private account information she provided to sign up for an IMDb Pro subscription.

The case comes amid heightened concerns about online privacy and data gathering, as exemplified by the reaction to Google’s move to combine its data collection across its online properties.

Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, tells the NYT: “A judgment would likely be a great concern for the many companies who actively use mining services and information.”

Lawyers for Hoang say the disclosure of her age — revealing her to be “many years older than she looks” — has made it tougher to find work.

Lawyers for Amazon.com wrote in a previous court filing, “Plaintiff’s attempt to manipulate the federal court system so she can censor IMDb.com’s display of her birthdate and pretend to the world that she is not 40 years old is selfish, contrary to the public interest and a frivolous abuse of this court’s resources.”

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  • Todd Shelton

    That’s a pretty harsh response, if the site’s privacy terms say or imply that what you mark as private stays private.  If “pretending to the world” is “…selfish, (and) contrary to the public interest” then disclosing private information should be legal, provided it’s accurate–is that IMDB’s postion? 

    This one deserves a high court decision, if for no other reason than if IMDBs attorneys think this is a reasonable provacy dislosure defense, other companies must be thinking the same thing. 

    • Matthew Bos

       Someone’s age is not private information, birth certificates are public record. 

      • Daniel Sydnes

        Birth certificates are filed with each state’s department of vital records, but they are seldom accessible to the general public.  Many states are “closed record states” and do not release records unless the requester has a biological or legal relationship to the subject of the birth certificate.  For example, a parent, grandparent, spouse, adult brother, adult sister, adult child, foster parent, legal guardian, or adoption agency.

        As the Internet has enabled rapid and comprehensive searches, more states have enacted statutes that protect the privacy of their citizens.  This includes records for adoptions, marriage licenses, drivers licenses, titles, deeds, etc.

      • http://www.facebook.com/acmaurer50 Alfred C Maurer

        Except Obama’s.

  • cfc912

    The fact is she got caught lying. She also looks her age, I wouldn’t believe her to be under 38-40.

  • Yip

    Indeed.  Frivolous.  Lawsuits like this are the scourge of America.  Seriously…she looks to IMBD to get work??  Doesn’t she have a manager?  A headshot and resume that shows her stats…height, weight, AGE?  And yet she wants to blame some website for her not getting any work??!!

    • Yap

      Wow, really?  That’s how you read that?  No, she doesn’t “look to IMDB to get work.”  The problem is, if she’s going for a role that calls for a “twenty-something” or “thirty-something,” and the casting department checks her IMDB record, she might be eliminated from consideration, even if she may look the part.  Besides, her age is really nobody’s business unless she chooses to reveal it.  And no, a headshot and resume do not include age unless she chooses to list it there.

  • SurfinUSA

    Where is there damage to the “public interest?”  Amazon signed an agreement with her based on a information contract Amazon probably created.  I don’t know what the boilerplate says but if she specifically conditioned the contract on the privacy of her age or other personal information, then Amazon doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    Regardless of liability, there is no public interest damaged.  Her career is damaged because of the movie business’s bigotry in using age as a criteria for granting her employment.  Amazon ought to admit they are revealing information on behalf of the film industry and quit the pretense that the public interest has been aggrieved. 

    I don’t think the public would choose Amazon’s defense on this one.

    • bkap

      This wasn’t them revealing information on behalf of the film industry. It was them trying to build up a complete profile for an actress on the Internet Movie Database. She filled out a profile for IMDB and then IMDB put her information on the profile. Apparently she didn’t realize that the information was going to be made public so she sued Amazon over it.

  • markjonson

    That’s great……except that birth records (which would inherently indicate a birth date, and thus age) are public in most, if not all, states in the US. While I support privacy where it matters, the truth is that your age hasn’t been a secret since the day you were born.

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