The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision today in TransUnion LLC v. Ramirez, an important case about the ability of individuals to bring privacy cases in federal court. The Court, in a controversial 5-4 decision authored by Justice Kavanaugh, held that proof of "concrete harm" is required to establish standing to sue under Article III of the U.S. Constitution. The jury in this case found that TransUnion had willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when it falsely flagged the credit reports of thousands of individuals for being "Specially Designated Nationals" under the Office of Foreign Asset Controls list that includes terrorists, drug trafficers, and other sanctioned individuals. The Supreme Court held that the group of individuals who could prove that these false credit reports had been disclosed to third parties had standing to sue, but the group who did not provide evidence that their reports had been disclosed did not meet the burden under Article III.
This decision will have significant implications for individuals seeking redress in federal court for privacy violations that do not involve the improper disclosure of personal information. EPIC filed an amicus brief in TransUnion, urging the Court to hold that people can sue when their privacy rights are violated, regardless of whether they allege that the violation led to other harms. Justice Thomas, joined by three other members of the Court, agreed and would have ruled that standing exists in any case brought by an individual to vindicate a violation of their private rights. EPIC's Executive Director, Alan Butler, said that "the Supreme Court's decision in TransUnion does not close the door on all privacy claims, but it certainly makes it more difficult for individuals to seek redress in privacy cases that don't involve improper disclosure of information." EPIC previously filed an amicus briefs on this issue with the Supreme Court in Spokeo v. Robbins and frequently files amicus briefs in cases interpreting standing under a variety of privacy laws.