New York federal judge dismisses lawsuit against JetBlue over passenger information

Tuesday, August 2nd 2005, 8:37 am
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ JetBlue Airways passengers whose personal information was used without their knowledge in a federally funded study of aviation security didn't show they suffered any harm and aren't entitled to damages, a federal judge says.

U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon in New York signed an order Friday dismissing a class-action lawsuit against JetBlue, Little Rock-based Acxiom Corp., Torch Concepts of Huntsville, Ala., and SRS Technologies of Newport Beach, Calif.

Acxiom and Torch are database management companies and SRS is a Department of Defense contractor. JetBlue and Acxiom supplied passenger information to Torch, an SRS subcontractor that analyzed it in an effort to identify people who might be a risk to military installations.

The judge said that, despite good intentions, JetBlue was not entitled to break its agreement with passengers that it would not give away sensitive information. But having said that, Amon said the passengers could not prove how they were damaged.

Amon also rejected a claim that JetBlue enjoyed an unjust enrichment since the company gave the information to Torch rather than selling it.

``The only benefit JetBlue derived was `the potential for increased safety on its flights and the potential to prevent the use of commercial airlines as weapons that target military bases,''' Amon wrote.

The database of former JetBlue passengers included whether they owned or rented their home, how long they had lived at that residence, the number of immediate family members, Social Security numbers and whether they owned or leased their car, the lawsuit said.

Interest in passenger list data grew after the 2001 terror attacks, but revelations that airlines turned over passenger lists for government research triggered a number of class-action lawsuits. As a result, airlines said they would turn over the data only on a direct order.

Previously, JetBlue acknowledged that it violated its own privacy policy in giving information from about 5 million passenger records to Torch Concepts.

``Although the action was found to be lawful, it violated our privacy protection policy,'' said Jenny Derbin, a spokeswoman for Forest Hills, N.Y.-based JetBlue. ``We regret that deeply. We have no intention of sharing information with any third party.''