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Major Real Estate Firms Among Defendants In 118 Data Privacy Lawsuits

Nearly a dozen real estate industry firms have been named as defendants in the 118 data privacy lawsuits filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey over the past 10 days by Atlas Data Privacy Corp.

The lawsuits allege that the defendants, which are referred to as “data brokers,” have violated a law that prohibits the disclosure of home addresses and unpublished home phone numbers for judges, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and their families.

CoStar, Zillow, RE/MAX, First American Financial, CoreLogic, Attom Data, Black Knight, Remine, PropertyRadar, Yardi and NJ Property Records have all recently found themselves on the defensive end of lawsuits alleging that they have violated Daniel’s Law

The law is named after Daniel Anderl, the son of a federal judge. In July 2020, Anderl was shot and killed by a gunman who had personal and political grievances against Anderl’s father. The gunman was able to find the home address of the federal judge through online companies that collect personal data. There are both federal and state versions of Daniel’s Law. 

The complaints, each of which are nearly identical, state that Atlas (an online platform that provides services like email to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges and other people covered by Daniel’s Law) is suing the firms on behalf of roughly 19,469 individuals covered under Daniel’s Law. 

According to the complaints, law enforcement personnel used the Atlas platform to send the defendants a written notice requesting that they stop disclosing their private information on one or more of the defendants’ sites. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants did not comply, prompting them to file the lawsuit. 

“This complaint seeks to protect those important rights, against companies brokering data and choosing profit and personal gain over a critical public interest and the unequivocal mandate of the law,” the complaints state.

“Companies in the business of disclosing this protected information have avoided accountability for far too long, proffering such information, including home addresses and unpublished home telephone numbers, without sufficient regard for the risks and consequences imposed upon individuals who serve critical judicial and law enforcement roles.”

Courts are allowed to award up to $1,000 in actual damages for each violation of Daniel’s Law. Additionally, courts can award punitive damages if the plaintiffs are able to prove that the violation was willful or reckless. 

In addition to Atlas, the complaints name law enforcement officers and their family members as plaintiffs. The complaints allege that these plaintiffs received threatening phone calls and text messages after their phone numbers and addresses were shared via links to data broker sites.

In one instance, the leader of a criminal organization was reportedly found to possess images of the home of a police officer investigating the organization, as well as images of her child’s bedroom and playroom windows.

In another instance, a plaintiff claims that the Mara Salvatrucha-13 (MS-13) gang in New Jersey, whom the plaintiff was investigating, attempted to burn down her home while she was inside but mistakenly set fire to an adjacent building instead. 

RE/MAX declined the opportunity to comment and the other defendants did not return a request for comment.

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