Time Inc. Irons Out $7.4M Magazine-Subscriber Settlement

DETROIT (CN) – A federal judge gave preliminary approval Thursday to Time Inc. in a class action of its alleged sale of magazine subscriber data.

Under the terms of the $7.4 million agreement filed in June, each Michigan subscriber would receive a cash award of between $25 and $50. The deal covers approximately 719,000 consumers who subscribed to Time publications over a three-year period beginning in February 2013.

People magazine subscriber Carolyn Perlin brought the underlying class action against Time back in 2016, accusing the publisher of selling the personal data of individuals who subscribed to dozens of titles including the eponymous news magazine Time, as well as Cooking Light and Sports Illustrated.

Among other details, Perlin said, the data sent to data miners and other companies included full names, home addresses and reading habits.

“In order to facilitate its surreptitious multi-million dollar disclosure business, Time hides its practices from its subscribers, and neither notifies them nor obtains their permission before disclosing their personal reading information to unrelated third parties,” the lawsuit said.

U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh granted preliminary approval of the settlement on Thursday and scheduled a final hearing on the case for Oct. 15 in the Motor City.

Michigan’s Video Rental Privacy Act, which Time is accused of violating, prohibits companies from disclosing the subscription and reading preferences of consumers. The law was modeled on the U.S. Video Privacy Protection Act but went even further in protecting information that reveals Michiganders’ reading, listening and viewing preferences.

This week’s settlement follows a similar case in the same court, Coulter-Owens v. Time, which  led to a $4.5 million settlement. Other recent privacy wins against media giants have included a $9 million settlement against Netflix and an $8.5 million agreement against Google.

In March, Facebook faced heavy criticism after it was reported that it had shared the data of millions of users with the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. In response, the Silicon Valley company updated its data and privacy policies to make it clearer to users how it shares personal information.

Time Inc. attorney Jake Sommer said Friday that he could not comment beyond what had been stated in court filings. Plevin’s attorney Ari Scharg said he could not comment until the order is made final.

Meredith Corporation acquired Time Inc. for $2.8 billion in January.  Meredith spokesman Art Slusark declined to comment on the settlement.

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