Class Claims Dating Sites Disclose HIV Statuses

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – 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.
     Jane Does 1 and 2, of Canada and Washington state, claim there are hundreds of thousands in the class, citing a June press release in which press release in which SuccessfulMatch boasted of having 732,700 members.
     The Does claim that SuccessfulMatch preys on the vulnerability of people who have tested positive for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, which led both of them to join its PositiveSingles.com dating site.
     “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.
     “The SuccessfulMatch.com site offers zero set-up cost: ‘If you don’t have a dating website, we can set it up for you at no cost. You can pick the name for the site, and domain and brand. We take care of dating software, membership database, payment processing, hosting, customer support and much more,'” the complaint states, citing information gleaned from the SuccessfulMatch.com website.
     The complaint continues: “It [SuccessfulMatch.com] also offers pre-populated member databases: ‘Your dating site will share hundreds of thousands of profiles with other similar sites we have already set up. Your users can immediately contact hundreds of thousands of other users with the same interests once they register.’
     “The result of this process is that hundreds or thousands of websites have been established that all point to the same database of profiles. Consequently, the personal profile, picture and other information of those who have one condition or characteristic are displayed on hundreds or thousands of websites addressed to conditions and characteristics they do not know of, such as being HIV positive, kinky, black or of other ethnic groups, Christian or affiliated with other religions, gay, or otherwise.”
     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.
     “Each of these websites were set up by SuccessfulMatch.com using virtually identical formats that emphasize they are unique and exclusive locations without anywhere disclosing the names of any of the other websites that the person’s profile and private information will be shown on. Each of these websites states that it is totally safe and secure and that it does not disclose, sell or rent any personally identifiable information to any third party organizations. These statements are false and misleading as made in that the websites disclose the information to anyone who can create a domain name and that making one’s private health information and dating profile appear on hundreds or thousands of undisclosed websites that portray the individual as something they are not is not conduct that one would consider as ‘totally safe and secure,'” the women say in the complaint.
     SuccessfulMatch obscures its websites’ terms of service pages so that most users never even see them, the Does claim.
     “Defendant’s websites utilize a common form of Terms of Service that are presented on a take it or leave it basis. No member is required to review the Term of Service before registering on defendant’s websites and most members never see the terms. The websites are designed so that the Terms of Service cannot be printed out, so that if any person wants to have a paper copy they are required to personally contact SuccessfulMatch.com and request it. Included in the Terms of Service are three provisions that are so extreme as to shock the conscience. These provisions are quoted from the Terms of Service as follows:
     “‘a. To expand the availability of profiles on SuccessfulMatch sites, profiles 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.
     “‘b. Anytime you as a member and/or standard member upload files, messages, enter data or engage in any other form of communication, individually or collectively, within the site, you grant to SM.com a perpetual, world wide, irrevocable, unrestricted, non-restricted, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, including but not limited to promotional and advertising purposes, copy, license, sublicense, adapt, distribute, display, publicly perform, reproduce, transmit, modify, edit and otherwise exploit such communications and any ideas or original materials contained in such communications, in all media now known or hereafter developed. This grant shall include the right to exploit any and all proprietary rights in such communications including, without limitations, any and all rights under copyright, trademark, service mark or patent laws under any relevant jurisdiction.
     “‘c. You agree that regardless of any statute or law to the contrary, any claim or cause of action arising out of or related to use of the Service or the Agreement must be filed within one (1) year after such claim or cause of action arose, or be forever barred,” according to the complaint.
     The Does seek class certification, restitution, declaratory judgment, a permanent injunction against defendant’s current business plan and collection activities against class members, and compensatory and punitive damages.
     They are represented by Robert Green with Green & Noblin, of Larkspur, Calif.

%d bloggers like this: