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America’s Test Kitchen Sale of Subscriber Info Michigan Class Action

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Cover of an Issue of Cook's Illustrated Magazine

Michigan has a Preservation of Personal Privacy Act (PPPA) that forbids the selling of magazine subscriber information to third parties. The complaint for this class action alleges that America’s Test Kitchen, LP (ATK) violated this law by selling the information of subscribers to Cook’s Illustrated and other publications.

The class for this action is all Michigan residents who, at any time between June 13, 2016 and July 30, 2016, had their Personal Reading Information disclosed to third parties by ATK without consent.

The complaint alleges, “Between June 13 and July 30, 2016, Defendant America’s Test Kitchen LP (“ATK”) rented, exchanged, and/or otherwise disclosed personal information” about magazine subscriber Steven Kittle “to data aggregators, data appenders, data cooperative, and list brokers, among others, which in turn disclosed his information to aggressive advertisers, political organizations, and non-profit companies.”

Why do he believe this? First, because after he subscribed to Cook’s Illustrated, he began receiving “a barrage of unwanted junk mail.”

The complaint alleges that “an entire industry exists while [sic] companies known as data aggregators purchase, trade, and collect massive databases of information about consumers. Data aggregators then profit by selling this ‘extraordinarily intrusive’ information in an open and largely unregulated market.”

The complaint claims to have evidence of the selling of Kittle’s information: “For example, a list broker, Specialists Marketing Services, Inc. (“SMS”) offers to provide renters access to Personal Reading Information of 607,910 active U.S. subscribers from the ‘Cook’s Illustrated’ mailing list…” 

It adds, “Renters are also able to access the Personal Reading Information of 1,699,664 ‘Active Book Buyers[]’…”

Also on offer is ATK’s “Masterfile,” which includes buyers of and subscribers to a number of ATK publications, and “America’s Test Kitchen Wiland Direct Modeling Masterfile.”

The complaint reproduces the website pages making these offerings and showing prices.

According to the complaint, all this violates the PPPA, which it quotes as saying that someone “engaged in the business of selling at retail, renting, or lending books or other reading materials … shall not disclose to any person, other than the customer, a record or information concerning the purchase … of those materials by a customer that indicates the identity of the customer.” 

ATK never at any point asks purchasers or subscribers to read or agree to any terms of service, privacy policy, or information-sharing policy, the complaint says. It thus fails to get any kind of consent to the sharing of customer information. 

The complaint’s counts include violations of the Michigan privacy law as well as unjust enrichment.

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