A class action lawsuit was filed in California yesterday against Hey, Inc. and Twitter regarding Hey’s online trading game in which players collect profiles of (and use virtual currency to invest in) real-life people as if they were baseball cards. App users may purchase virtual currency to buy and trade these profiles. According to the complaint, the majority of the individuals displayed in the app did not agree to participate. Instead, Hey used Twitter’s API to obtain the users’ profiles, including their names and profile images, without Twitter users’ consent.
This data practice concerned Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA), who sent a letter to Twitter asking it to cease this practice “until nonconsenting profiles are removed and safeguards are implemented to ensure that no Twitter profile may be used by the application without clear, express consent.” The plaintiff is seeking damages and an injunction that would require Hey to remove personal identities from the app and enjoin Twitter from granting Hey access to Twitter’s API.
TAKEAWAY: Companies who wish to use the Twitter API for their own business purposes should determine whether they will need to obtain separate permissions for use of the data received. Depending on the nature of the proposed use, companies may wish to consider separately negotiating for the use of the Twitter API directly with Twitter.