EFF represents an anonymous speaker targeted by their former employer for leaving a review on Glassdoor. EFF's client, J. Doe, seeks to quash a subpoena for identifying information of several former employees of the cryptocurrency exchange company Kraken after the company sought their identities based on a lawsuit alleging the reviewers breached their severance agreements.
After Kraken laid off several employees in early 2019, people left anonymous reviews about the company on Glassdoor. Doe shared their views on working for Kraken, which ranged from praising the “skilled, knowledgeable, and nice colleagues” to a personal reflection that “I personally had a deep sense of trepidation much of the time.” Doe took care writing the review, as Doe had signed a severance agreement promising not to disclose confidential information or disparage or defame the company. Kraken publicly responded to Doe’s review of the company on the Glassdoor site, thanking Doe for the feedback and wishing Doe the best.
However, in May 2019, Kraken changed course and began targeting Doe and other former employees. The company filed a lawsuit against ten Doe defendants, including our client, claiming they breached their severance contracts and seeking to identify them. Kraken also sent an email to former employees, demanding that they delete any reviews that were in violation of the severance agreement. Even though Doe believed they had complied with the agreement, Doe deleted the Glassdoor review.
Doe argues that courts have long recognized that attempts to unmask anonymous speakers not only harm the speakers’ First Amendment rights, but can chill the speech of others who may want to do the same but fear being unmasked. The motion Doe filed asks the court to adopt stronger legal protections for Doe and other anonymous speakers, which require more than a mere allegation of illegal activity before the anonymity is breached.