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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Gives HIV Dating Website a Break

SAN JOSE (CN) - Online daters failed to show that SuccessfulMatch.com misled them into believing their HIV and STD statuses would remain private, a federal judge ruled.

Jane Does 1 and 2, of Canada and Washington state, filed a federal class action against SuccessfulMatch.com in 2013, claiming the website preyed on the vulnerability of people who have tested positive for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, which led them to join its PositiveSingles.com dating site.

The women claimed that PositiveSingles.com lured them in with empathetic statements such as, "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," and promised that "we care about your privacy more than other sites," according to the class action.

But unbeknownst to the women, while PositiveSingles.com promised a free and "fully anonymous" profile, its parent SuccessfulMatch.com allows its 732,000 users to scan the full profiles - including health information and HIV status - of all its affiliates, including PositiveSingles.com, according to the lawsuit.

SuccessfulMatch.com sought to dismiss the putative class action, claiming the Jane Does failed to make the case that the website had misrepresented the level of privacy they would enjoy under unfair competition laws or the California Legal Remedies Act.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh agreed and dismissed the case.

"The complaint lacks allegations of what, if any, purported misrepresentations the two named plaintiffs, Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, actually read," Koh wrote in a 15-page ruling filed April 16.

"Plaintiffs have failed to specifically allege that they saw any of the statements that they claim are misleading, or how the website statements impacted their decisions to register with defendant's website. Plaintiffs' generalized allegations that defendants 'preyed on the vulnerability of the members of the public that tested positive for STDs' and that defendants 'lured members in with empathetic sounding statements' are insufficient to meet the pleading requirement. Rather, plaintiffs must, at a minimum, allege that they actually viewed the representations that they now contend are misleading. Furthermore, plaintiffs have not pleaded any facts to meet the 'but for' test for fraudulent omissions, as they have failed to allege how knowledge of defendant's omissions about affiliated sites would have impacted plaintiffs' decision to register for PositiveSingles.com."

Koh also noted that the Does' complaint never states which woman paid for subscriptions, if either did, and therefore cannot show any economic injury.

Paid memberships disclose more information - such as HIV or STD status - on affiliated websites, so the putative class members would need to have paid memberships to be able to show injury, the judge found.

The women have 21 days to file an amended complaint.

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