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American Express Privacy Class Action Lawsuit

By Kimberly Mirando


American ExpressA federal class action lawsuit claims American Express routes its Membership Rewards customers’ calls to foreign call centers without their knowledge, subjecting them to intrusive, warrantless snooping by the U.S. government.

The American Express Membership Rewards program allows customers to partake in a number of services, including booking travel to anywhere in the world by calling a single U.S.-based toll-free telephone number. In the past, these call centers were based in the U.S., but the majority are now located overseas. These foreign-based call centers are staffed, for the most part, by foreign nationals, but customers are unaware and are not notified that their customer service calls are transferred to a foreign national residing overseas, the class action lawsuit says.

“To enable American Express to provide various consumer services to them, Cardmembers entrust their spending, consumption, and financial records to American Express,” the class action lawsuit says, which is sent to the customer service representative fielding the cardmember’s call so that the he or she can service the needs of the cardmember. “Foreign national personnel who staff the American Express overseas call centers have no rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” and the electronic data transmissions (EDT) “received by and send from that foreign national are not protected by the Fourth Amendment.”

As a result, says the American Express class action lawsuit, the United States Government may intercept such EDT without regard to constraints imposed by the constitution. And as long as the government does not specifically “target” an individual with its surveillance apparati, the U.S. government is not constrained by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in harvesting EDT.

“On information and belief, all EDT received by or sent from the foreign national staff of American Express’s overseas call centers are searched by the United States Government [and stored],” the class action lawsuit alleges. “Cardmembers have a reasonable expectation that their spending, consumption, and financial records will be safeguarded against disclosure to the United States or other governments.”

The American Express class action lawsuit is seeking restitution, equitable relief, compensatory and exemplary damages, and more, including an order enjoining American Express from pursuing the policies, acts and practices alleged in the suit.

A copy of the American Express Privacy Class Action Lawsuit can be read here.

The case is Heidi Pickman, at al. v. American Express Travel Related Services, Inc., American Express Centurion Bank, and American Express Bank FSB, Case No. RG11578840, Superior Court of California, County of Alameda.

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Updated June 6th, 2011


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