In a closely watched case in Washington federal court, a jury found in favor of entertainment Web site IMDb (Internet Movie Database) over an actress who sued after the site revealed her true age.

Huong Hoang, who used the stage name Junie Hoang to garner acting credits like Zombie Postwoman in Z: A Zombie Musical and the Headless Woman in Domain of the Damned, created a profile on IMDb to increase her exposure to the film and television industry, and the profile listed her birthdate as 1978. Hoang later asked the site to remove her age and sent altered documents to support her cause. The company, however, cross-referenced her credit card data with public records and updated the site to reveal her real year of birth: 1971.

Hoang sued, alleging that the disclosure resulted in lost employment.

“In the entertainment industry, youth is king,” Hoang wrote in her complaint. “If one is perceived to be ‘over-the-hill,’ i.e., approaching 40, it is nearly impossible for an up-and-coming actress, such as the plaintiff, to get work.”

After a two-day trial, a federal jury ruled in favor of Amazon subsidiary IMDb on Hoang’s breach of contract claim (her other allegations of fraud and breach of state privacy law were dismissed last year).

According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, Esq., Hoang faced tough cross-examination when she took the stand about her actual earnings from her acting career even prior to the revelation of her true age. Tax returns showed her acting income in 2010 was between $1,000 and $2,000, which the defense used to imply that Hoang’s acting was less a career and more of a hobby. Defense counsel also grilled Hoang about her efforts to post a fake age on the Web site, a violation of IMDb’s terms of service. He asked her repeatedly, “You knew you were obligated to make sure the information you provided [to IMDb] was true and accurate, didn’t you?”

Why it matters: Companies that engage in comparable data-mining activity were concerned that a verdict paid in favor of Hoang could open the door to potential liability and paid close attention to the suit. Hoang alleged that the site ascertained her actual age by using her credit card information to search publicly available data. But the defendant argued that even if it did use her credit card information, it was allowed to under the terms of its privacy policy, which stated that IMDb uses information given to the site for “improving our site.” It listed examples of collected data like names, e-mail addresses, age, and gender. The jury seemingly agreed.