(New York, NY, 3/18/2021) – A group of California civil rights activists has filed a class action lawsuit against Thompson Reuters, accusing the company of illegally selling Californians’ data without their consent. The lawsuit claims that Thomson Reuters’s CLEAR database collects millions of Californians’ utility records, criminal histories, credit reports, photographs, and other records and sells that data to private companies, police, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The CLEAR database has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks for enabling ICE to purchase invasive data on hundreds of millions of Americans. The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of prominent civil rights groups and law firms from across the country: Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), Justice Catalyst Law, Gupta Wessler PLLC, and Gibbs Law Group LLP.
SEE: Brooks v. Thomson Reuters Complaint
Headshot – Cat Brooks
Headshot – Rasheed Shabazz
“As an activist, it is extremely important to me to maintain control over the dissemination of personal information about me and my family,” said plaintiff Cat Brooks “As a single mother who receives hate mail, it is terrifying to me that Thomson Reuters offers its customers extensive access to my personal information just so it can make a profit. I am bringing this lawsuit to stop Thomson Reuters from selling a product premised on non-consensual invasions of my privacy and the privacy of all Californians.”
“I do not want this corporation selling my identity while putting me at risk,” said plaintiff Rasheed Shabazz.
“It’s wrong of Thomson Reuters to take Americans’ data without consent, but it’s truly sickening to use that data to fuel deportation,” said Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn. “For years, data brokers have profited while using our own information to help put Americans behind bars. It’s immoral, it’s illegal, and it must stop. We want to show surveillance profiteers that if they take our data without consent, they do it at their own peril. Anytime our data is sold without consent, it’s dangerous. But when this data is sold to law enforcement, it’s particularly alarming. If we don’t stop police from purchasing our data whenever they want, our Constitution won’t be worth the parchment it’s written on.”
“Our clients allege that Thomson Reuters’s CLEAR database deprives people of control over their own identities when it sells detailed personal dossiers about them without their consent, and often without their knowledge,” said Alice Buttrick, Counsel at Justice Catalyst Law, Inc.
Today’s announcement comes just days after members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform requested information from Thomson Reuters about ICE access to utility records.
SEE: The Washington Post – ICE investigators used a private utility database covering millions to pursue immigration violations
SEE: Bloomberg Law – Democrats Launch Probe of Thomson Reuters, Equifax Ties to ICE
Plaintiffs originally filed their complaint in California Superior Court on December 3rd, 2020. Last week, Thomson Reuters removed the lawsuit to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The putative class action lawsuit seeks damages for the millions of Californians whose data is sold by Thomson Reuters without consent, alleging violations of California’s Common Law Right to Publicity and Unfair Competition Law.
SEE: Notice of Removal
The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project is a non-profit advocacy organization and legal services provider hosted by the Urban Justice Center. S.T.O.P. litigates and advocates for privacy, fighting excessive local and state -level surveillance. Our work highlights the discriminatory impact of surveillance on Muslim Americans, immigrants, and communities of color.
Justice Catalyst Law, Inc. is a nonprofit law firm that develops and litigates cases with broad-scale, real-world impact, emphasizing commercial and private rights violations that underlie social and economic injustice. With offices in New York and Washington, D.C., Justice Catalyst Law works nationally to bring impact cases in the fields of antitrust, consumer law, employment law, and more on behalf of those denied access to justice. For more information, visit www.justicecatalyst.org.
California-based Gibbs Law Group LLP represents consumers, whistleblowers, and employees across the U.S. against the world’s largest corporations. Our award-winning lawyers have achieved landmark recoveries and over a billion dollars for our clients in high-stakes complex lawsuits and individual cases involving consumer protection, data breach, digital privacy, and employment law.