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$50 million settlement in magazine subscriber privacy case

Hearst Communications agrees to $50 million settlement in privacy violation lawsuit

Magazine subscribers in Michigan have agreed to settle a privacy lawsuit against Hearst Communications.

The subscribers say Hearst sold their personal information to third-party data mining companies without their consent. The information was then combined with other data, like political donations and shopping behavior, and resold. 

The magazines include Cosmo, Oprah, Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Road and Track, Country Living, Elle, Food Network, Good Housekeeping, Harper's Bazaar, Redbook, and Seventeen, among others.

The lawsuit was filed in 2015 when Michigan had the strictest consumer personal information privacy statute in the nation, with a penalty of $5,000 dollars per violation. The $50 million settlement is believed to be unprecedented in size. The statute has since been watered down.

Up to 2 million people in the state could be entitled to damages ranging from $25 to $150. The judge has not yet approved the settlement amount nor the settlement class.

Claim notices to people who may be part of the settlement class are expected to go out by mail in about six months.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.