BUSINESS

Woman sues Sprint over posting of intimate photos from traded-in phone

A Los Angeles woman has sued Sprint Corp., saying that one of its workers browsed through her traded-in phone, found two photographs of her engaged in sex and posted them on her Facebook page.

The woman, identified in the lawsuit only as J. Johnson, said the Sprint employee used the Facebook application on her old phone to upload the photographs and make them visible to her family, friends and co-workers.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages for invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress and identity theft.

"It was very embarrassing, shocking, traumatizing" for Johnson, said S. Mohammad Kazerouni, her attorney. "I think it's disgusting. I can't fathom why someone would want to put up intimate pictures of someone they've never met on their Facebook page."

Sprint said it is looking into the allegations.

"Protecting customer privacy is of the utmost importance to Sprint. We take these matters very seriously," Sprint spokeswoman Stephanie Vinge Walsh said. "We intend to fully investigate this matter."

Kazerouni also filed a lawsuit against Sprint on behalf of the man in the photos, identified in court papers only as D. Green.

Johnson's suit said she traded in her HTC Evo telephone at the Sprint store on Melrose Avenue in April 2013 and was assured by a worker that its contents would be wiped clean. She had forgotten that the two intimate photos were among more than 5,000 on her old phone, her lawyer said.

About a month later, a friend called Johnson to tell her that compromising photographs had been posted on her Facebook page, the lawsuit said.

The suit said Sprint told Johnson that the telephone had been sent to a plant in Louisville, Ky., to be refurbished. Her lawsuit alleges that an unidentified Sprint employee at that plant accessed the photographs.

Several of her Facebook friends commented about the photographs, including one man who said he had downloaded them and planned to keep them, Kazerouni said.

"She had a lot of friends from out of state who made teasing comments," Kazerouni said.

It was difficult for Johnson to return to her marketing job, the lawyer said, because she was unaware who had seen the photos.

The attorney said he did not list his clients' names in the lawsuit to protect their privacy. Both are in their 30s and live in Los Angeles, he said. They are not in a relationship, he said.

"They don't know how many people have seen it. But just based on the comments [on Facebook], it was a lot of people," Kazerouni said. "It's been fairly traumatizing for both of them."

A screen shot Johnson saved of her Facebook page shows that the photographs were loaded by a mobile user, he said.

The lawsuit comes amid growing concern about online privacy, especially in social media. Kazerouni said his clients' experience should concern anyone who uses a smartphone.

"It certainly makes you think twice about turning your phone in without making sure it's erased, even if you're assured it will be," he said.

stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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