Two Michigan consumers allege they’ve been inundated with unwanted junk mail due to Dow Jones & Company’s unauthorized disclosure of their subscription to the print edition of the Wall Street Journal to data aggregators, data appenders, data cooperatives and list brokers.
Alleging violations of the Michigan Preservation of Personal Privacy Act (PPPA), the 33-page complaint claims the entities to which publisher Dow Jones & Company disclosed the plaintiffs’ personal information between May 4, 2015 and July 30, 2016 in turn shared the data with “aggressive advertisers, political organizations, and non-profit companies” who proceeded to “barrage” the consumers with spam mailings.
To supplement its revenues, Dow Jones & Company “rents, exchanges, or otherwise discloses” customers’ personal information to third parties without consent, the lawsuit alleges. Information disclosed by the defendant includes customers’ full names, titles of publications to which they subscribe and home addresses in addition to personal, lifestyle and demographic specifics such as gender, age, ethnicity, income, religion, parental status and political affiliation, the suit says.
The complaint stresses that by renting, exchanging or otherwise disclosing consumers’ information, rather than selling it, Dow Jones & Company can share the data with third parties time and time again. According to the suit, the defendant “profits handsomely” from the unauthorized disclosure of customers’ personal information.
Stressed in the lawsuit is that the disclosure of consumers’ personal information without consent is particularly dangerous to elderly individuals who more frequently find themselves targets of fraudulent misconduct. The suit says there exists an entire black market centered on the personal information of vulnerable, elderly consumers, who might find themselves ensnared in a cycle of fraudulent communications and scam tactics.
The plaintiffs argue that what they received in subscribing to the print version of the Wall Street Journal—a newspaper subscription with no statutory privacy protections—is worth less than what they paid. The consumers would not have subscribed to the publication, or would have paid less, had they known Dow Jones & Company would disclose their personal information, the case claims.
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