New York media giant Hearst Communications has agreed to pay $50 million to settle a subscription data lawsuit.
Hearst was accused of selling its magazine subscribers’ subscription histories, reading habits, age, race, religion, charitable donations, political affiliations, income bracket, shopping habits and other personal data to third parties, including data-mining companies without their consent.
The media giant, which owns titles including Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Cosmo, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, and Esquire, was sued in November 2015 in a New York federal court by Good Housekeeping Michigan subscriber Josephine James Edwards. Ms Edwards launched a class action suit alleging Hearst illegally granted third party “data mining” companies to access Hearst’s database of subscriber information without the permission of subscribers in violation of the Michigan state Video Rental Privacy Act, which prohibits the sharing of personal information provided by consumers about their purchasing, renting or borrowing of materials that might provide details about their identity and interests without consent from the individual consumers.
In her complaint, she stated ‘Hearst’s subscribers are completely unaware that Hearst is selling their personal information on the open market.’ Ms Edwards claimed Hearst does not obtain consent causing subscribers to be ‘bombarded, by unwanted offers and scams. Her case is one of a number of similar state lawsuits, and is three times bigger than a previous $16.38 million settlement from Consumer Reports.