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Kiplinger’s Sharing of Subscriber Information Michigan Privacy Class Action

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Cover of an Issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Michigan’s Preservation of Personal PrivacyAct (PPPA), before its amendment on July 31, 2016, prohibited companies from sharing Personal Reading Information from the subscribers and purchasers of their publications. The complaint for this class action alleges that the Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. at that time shared subscriber information with third parties in violation of the law. 

The class for this action is all Michigan residents who, at any time between June 27, 2016 and July 30, 2016, had their Personal Reading Information disclosed to third parties by Kiplinger without consent.

The complaint quotes Subsection 2 of the PPPA: “[A] person, or an employee or agent of the person, engaged in the business of selling at retail, renting, or lending books or other written 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.”

Ralph Strano, who lives in Au Gres, Michigan, had a subscription to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, a publication put out by Kiplinger’s. The complaint alleges that between June 27 and July 30, 2016, Kiplinger’s “rented, exchanged, and/or otherwise disclosed” his personal information “to data aggregators, data appenders, data cooperatives, and list brokers, among others, which in turn disclosed his information to aggressive advertisers, political organizations, and nonprofit companies.”

Strano knows this first of all because he has been barraged by junk mail from these kinds of entities. But the complaint alleges there is more substantial proof.

It reproduces a page entitled “Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Mailing List” from the website of a list broker, NextMark. This mailing list purports to contain the Personal Reading Information (PRI) of over 450,000 active US subscribers to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, and NextMark is renting it at a price of fourteen and a half cents each. 

It also reproduces pages for “Kiplinger’s Retirement Report Mailing List,” which offers to rent PRI on subscribers to that publication as well.  

Strano bought his subscription directly from Kiplinger’s. The company did not disclose that it shares PRI with other companies. Strano never gave the company permission to share, rent, or sell his information. The company never gave him any written notice that it makes money sharing, renting, or selling such information, never obtained his written consent to the sharing of his own information, and never offered him a chance to opt out.

The counts include violation of the PPPA and unjust enrichment.

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