Friday, April 04, 2008

US Appeal Court: Roommate-Finding Website May Not Ask About Sexual Orientation

From MSNBC:

SAN FRANCISCO - A roommate-finding site cannot require users to disclose their sexual orientation, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Thursday, in the latest skirmish over whether anti-discrimination rules apply to the Web.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Roommates.com, which obliges users to list their sexual orientation, was different than Internet sites where people can volunteer or withhold personal information.

To inquire electronically about sexual orientation would not be different from asking people in person or by telephone if they were black or Jewish before conducting business, the panel said in an 8-3 ruling that partly overturns a lower federal court decision.

..."If such screening is prohibited when practiced in person or by telephone, we see no reason why Congress would have wanted to make it lawful to profit from it online," 9th Circuit chief judge Alex Kozinski wrote. "Not only does Roommate ask these questions, Roommate makes answering the discriminatory questions a condition of doing business."

...Three judges dissented, saying the court was creating a dangerous precedent and future confusion for Internet firms.

"The majority's unprecedented expansion of liability for Internet service providers threatens to chill the robust development of the Internet that Congress envisioned," Judge Margaret McKeown wrote

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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