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    MediaPost: Magazines Sued For Violating Calif. Privacy Law

    MediaPost reports on lawsuits in California concerning privacy and magazines:

    Nearly a dozen publishers including Rodale, Conde Nast, Time, Inc. and Hearst Communications have recently been hit with potential class-action lawsuits for allegedly violating a California privacy law.

    The publishers, which operate sites like RunnersWorld.com and Wired.com, allegedly failed to comply with California’s “shine the light” law — a statute enacted in 2003 that governs the sale of customer lists. The law says that companies selling customer lists must allow California residents to either opt out, or learn who is purchasing their names.

    The California law specifies that businesses must make available contact information — such as a toll-free number or street address — for consumers who wish to learn who has purchased data about them. Businesses with brick-and-mortar storefronts in the state can give consumers the contact information in person.

    But if companies that sell customer lists only have Web presences in the state, they must provide a link to a privacy policy on their home page; the first page of that link must contain a mailing address, e-mail address, toll-free telephone number, or fax number that consumers can use to discover who has bought their names. […]

    The lawsuits allege that the publishers’ sites did not contain such information in the first page of their privacy policies. In all, Web users filed 11 separate cases against the publishers in recent weeks. The defendants include Men’s Journal, Reader’s Digest, CBS Interactive, XO Group, Eventful, and Skymall.

    A Rodale spokesperson said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but believes it is in compliance with the law and intends to defend against the lawsuit.

    The same law firm, Edelson McGuire, is representing Web users in all of the cases, which are pending in federal court in California. […]

    The California law says that consumers who can prove violations of the law are entitled to damages of up to $3,000. At this point, however, it’s not clear that consumers will have the chance to prove their allegations, given that judges in other privacy-related cases have ruled that Web users must show they were injured before proceeding in court.

    The consumers allege in court papers that they were injured because their data is valuable. But judges presiding over other privacy lawsuits, including cases against Facebook, have rejected that argument.

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