William Dotinga reports:
Dating website conglomerate SuccessfulMatch.com posts its customers’ HIV and STD statuses on thousands of its other websites, in violation of law and its own promises of confidentiality, a class action claims in Federal Court.
“On the home page of PositiveSingles.com, defendant lured them in with empathetic sounding statements like ‘You feel like you’re alone in the world. Do you wish there was a place where you didn’t have to worry about being rejected or discriminated? This is a warm-hearted and exclusive community for singles and friends with STDS.’ The home page went on to recognize the sensitivity of this information, claiming that ‘We care about your privacy more than other sites,’ with the word ‘privacy’ emphasized in the original,” the women say in the lawsuit.
The PositiveSingles site promised a free – and “fully anonymous” – profile in a “100 percent confidential and comfortable community,” according to the complaint. And the registration page assured that it would not disclose, rent or sell personally identifiable information to third parties.
But unbeknownst to the plaintiffs, PositiveSingles.com is one of thousands of websites operated by SuccessfulMatch.com. The women claim that SuccessfulMatch allows people to start their own online dating sites and then links members from the other sites in its stable to each other.
As a result, users of PositiveSingles.com share confidential information about their health, including HIV status, thinking it will be available only to other PositiveSingle.com users, not blasted on thousands of other SuccessfulMatch dating websites across the web, the complaint states.
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But could they have known if they had read the TOS? The complaint cites some of the clauses of the TOS, including:
To expand the availability of profiles on SuccessfulMatchs ites,p rofiles may be shared with other sites within the SuccessfulMatch Network. By posting or maintaining a profile on this or any other SuccessfulMatch Network site, you agree and consent that said profile shall be subject to placement on other SuccessfulMatch Network sites, at the discretion of SuccessfulMatch, without further notice.
The complaint alleges violations of California Business and Professions Code and California Consumer Legal Remedies Act. It was filed in federal court for the Northern District of California on July 19.