Lawsuit against LexisNexis Risk Solutions, over purportedly illegal distribution of personally identifiable information, removed to federal court.
A privacy suit against Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions was removed to federal court last week, six weeks after it was originally filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The complaint was filed by several Chicago-area activists, who are objecting to Lexis Nexus’s bulk sale of personally identifiable data, specifically regarding the sale of this information to law enforcement agencies.Lexis Nexis offers data available to purchase, the company claims the information is 99% accurate, and that there are 276 million so-called “Lexis IDs.” Put into context, there are just over 258 million American adults, according to the 2020 census.
The complaint, primarily brought by immigration activists, alleges that law enforcement is permitted to buy this information, including license plate scanner information, and is in turn, able to obtain farm more information than would be possible through other methods. Namely, law enforcement is able to obtain these records without seeking a court order, subpoena, or any other sort of process. In fact, the complaint alleges that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) has a $22 million annual contract with Lexis Nexis.
While the complaint alleges issues with the sale of this information generally, it is notable that government agencies are often able to purchase information that others would not be able to. For example, license plate scanner information can provide a tremendous amount of insight into an individual’s whereabouts. However, this appears to only be offered to law enforcement agencies.
The complaint includes counts under the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practice Act under 815 ILCS 505; Unjust Enrichment; Intrusion Upon Seclusion; and Declaratory Relief. The complaint outlines that the overarching legal theory is that the Illinois common law prohibits capturing private information and redistributing it without compensation and consent.
The breadth of the information included in these reports is quite expansive. Lexis included some information where information originates from, including everything from water bills, to potential cell phone tower pings, to rental history, or holding status.
While it would appear that the complaint faces an uphill battle moving forward, any findings in favor of the Plaintiffs may have significant ramifications for law enforcement and data collection companies alike. It is also interesting to consider this lawsuit in the context of the surge of litigation involving the Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) in Illinois. While BIPA is not at concern in this case, the general movement towards protecting personally identifiable information, in Illinois specifically, has created significant barriers for companies involves with collecting certain types of information.