Lawsuit Alleges Southwest Airlines Secretly Records Calls
By:   //  Human Rights Watch, Investigative Reports

(Story by Carol Thompson) A proposed class action lawsuit alleges that Southwest Airlines secretly recorded a telephone call in violation of privacy laws. The plaintiff, Aaron Siani, filed a proposed class action suit Sept. 7. in the U.S. District Court Central District of California.

In his complaint, Siani alleges that on or about September 1, 2014, he received a telephonic communication on his cellular telephone from (210) 991-9991, a number associated with Southwest Airlines. The caller identified herself as a representative of the airlines. During the conversation, Siani discussed the details of his request to cancel and obtain a refund of an airline itinerary. In addition to discussing details of the airline itinerary, Siani divulged certain information personal to the representative.

After speaking with the representative for several minutes, Siani inquired as to whether the phone call was being recorded. The representative informed him that the entire conversation had been recorded and apologized for not informing him at the onset of the call. Shortly thereafter, Siani terminated the call with the representative as he was uncomfortable sharing personal details on a recorded line.

The lawsuit states, “Due to the private subject matter being discussed, Plaintiff had no reasonable expectation that any of Plaintiff’s cellular telephone conversation with Defendant would be recorded. Had Plaintiff known that said conversation was being recorded, Plaintiff would have handled the transmission of his sensitive information with more care.” It continues, “ Plaintiff found Defendant’s clandestine recording to be highly offensive due to the delicacy of the topics discussed during said conversations.

“Defendant’s conversation with Plaintiff, was without Plaintiff’s knowledge or consent, recorded by Defendant, causing harm and damage to Plaintiff. Prior to Plaintiff’s query on the matter, Plaintiff was never informed that Plaintiff’s cellular telephone calls were being recorded. At no time during the call did Plaintiff give consent for the cellular telephone call to be monitored, recorded and/or eavesdropped upon.”

The suit is a proposed class action because, as noted in the complaint, “Plaintiff is informed and believes, and thereon alleges, that during the relevant time period, Defendant has had a policy and a practice of recording telephone conversations with consumers. Defendant’s employees and agents are directed, trained and instructed to, and do, record cellular telephone conversations with the public, including Plaintiff and other California residents.”

It is further noted that, “ Plaintiff is informed and believes, and thereon alleges, that during the relevant time period, Defendant has had all of its calls to the public, including those made to California residents, recorded without the knowledge or consent of the public, including Plaintiff and other California residents.”

The lawsuit was filed by Matthew M. Loker of the Kazerouni Law Group, APC on behalf of Siani.

Loker asserts that Californians have a constitutional right to privacy. “Moreover, the California Supreme Court has definitively linked the constitutionally protected right to privacy within the purpose, intent and specific protections of the Privacy Act, including specifically, California Penal Code § 632.

“In addition, California’s explicit constitutional privacy provision (Cal. Const., 1 § 1) was enacted in part specifically to protect California from overly intrusive business practices that were seen to pose a significant and increasing threat to personal privacy.”

The complaint continues, “California Penal Code § 632.7 prohibits in pertinent part ‘[e]very person who, without the consent of all parties to a communication…intentionally records, or assists in the…intentional recordation of, a communication transmitted between…a cellular radio telephone and a landline telephone.’

Thus, on its face, California Penal Code § 632.7 precludes the recording of all communications involving a cellular telephone.”

The lawsuit is seeking $5,000 for the plaintiff and for each member of the sub-class.

The case has been assigned to District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall and Magistrate Judge Michael R. Wilner.

Another privacy invasion story – this one from Facebook.

(Image: Flickr | FaceMePLS)

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