The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have teamed up to ask the Supreme Court to hear an urgent case about whether sites like Craigslist, Amazon and Google have a First Amendment right to collect and sell users’ sms online.
The cases are being brought on behalf of an online dating service called “Chomp,” which was founded in 2013 by former Microsoft employee Mark Smith.
The court has ruled in favor of the online dating site, which is available in nearly 20 countries.
The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate a 2015 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that said Craigslist was allowed to collect personal information from users.
Smith says that, since the 2015 ruling, he’s received thousands of emails from users in countries including the United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Argentina, Chile, India, New Zealand, and Russia.
The EFF filed the lawsuit on behalf, among others, of a British man who’s also a former employee of Microsoft.
“For a long time, dating sites have been able to collect information about their users’ interests and preferences.
Now, dating apps are increasingly using that information to build profiles of users to make their ads more targeted to users’ preferences and interests,” EFF attorney Michael Avenatti said in a statement.
“The court’s decision in Chomp could make it easier for users to block such profiles, and could result in more privacy violations and greater online intrusions.”
“It’s hard to see how dating sites can legitimately claim a First-Amendment right to conduct online dating in the digital age,” he added.
“It seems to me that this is an entirely new area of First Amendment protection for the dating app.”
“I think the court needs to consider the First Amendment rights of the app’s users,” said Stephanie Zuber, an attorney with the ACLU.
“I hope that they look at whether the First amendment protects online dating and whether there’s an interest in privacy and security that the court should consider.”
“We’re not ruling out the possibility that the courts could strike down a similar ruling in the future,” said ACLU attorney Matt Blaze.
“There are a lot of questions about how much this app is actually collecting information about its users and what it’s doing with that information.”
“The courts need to look at these types of cases because they’re often the last place people want to look for answers about their privacy,” he said.
In a separate case filed in the fall, a federal appeals court in California ruled that an app that allows users to upload their own photos of their romantic partners to a dating site could be held liable for their content if they upload the photos to an app like Tinder, which has more than 50 million users.
The case was brought by the American Association of University Women, which said that Tinder violated its users’ privacy by requiring users to provide a photo before the app would allow them to post the photos.
“Tinder is violating the privacy of its users by requiring them to give a photo to an online service,” said Katherine Zimmerman, an assistant attorney general for the ACLU of California.
“That is simply not acceptable.”
EFF filed a separate lawsuit against Google for allegedly collecting and selling users’ phone numbers and other information without their consent.
The ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Institute are also fighting to overturn the National Security Agency’s program that allowed the government to collect the phone numbers of thousands of Americans.
In that case, a former Google employee, Edward Snowden, revealed the extent of the NSA’s collection of phone numbers, email addresses and other personal information.
In response, Google and other tech companies have said they are working to remove the collection tools.