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Copyright 1996 Business Wire, Inc.
Business Wire
May 13, 1996, Monday

Largest database marketing firm sends phone numbers, addresses of 5,000 families with kids to TV reporter using name of child killer

May 12, 1996--Despite claims it protects safety of kids, the nation's largest data firm shipped phone numbers, addresses and ages of children in 5,000 Los Angeles households to a television reporter using the name of notorious child killer "Richard Allen Davis."

Davis is on trial in San Jose, Calif., for the murder/kidnap of 12-year-old Polly Klaas in 1993.

"It's not only easy to get information on your children, but it's cheap, legal and can even get into the hands of common criminals," said Kyra Phillips of the CBS affiliate KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, reporting the story on the station's Friday night newscast.

Using Davis's name, Phillips ordered and received lists on children overnight. She paid $ 277 with a money order with no proof of identification. She then did interviews with parents whose names were on the lists. They were shocked.

Marc Klaas, father of Polly Klaas, chairs Kids Off Lists. The coalition launched a national campaign warning parents that sexual predators can use computerized data lists to target victims. "A new way to stalk the innocent," reported Phillips.

Metromail is a subsidiary of the Chicago-based printing giant R.R. Donnelley & Sons, with $ 6.4 billion in sales in 1995. The company refused to comment on camera. It issued a statement calling its action "unfortunate," and claiming proper procedures but refused to disclose what those "procedures" were.

The incident contradicts previous statements by the company. Responding to Klaas in an earlier interview, Donnelley CEO John Walter told the Chicago Sun-Times: "You've painted us as a company that sells individuals information on children and that's not the case." (March 29, 1996)

In a previous statement, Donnelley spokesman Steve Bono told Gannett News Service that Metromail "checks company credentials and their uses of its database." (March 27, 1996)

"Bono says the company only deals with blue chip corporations. He says Marc Klaas is wrong when he says individuals can get access to Donnelley's database." KGO-AM San Francisco (Feb. 9, 1996).

The Metromail subsidiary sells information on 90 percent of U.S. households and collects data on 67,000 babies weekly from 3,200 sources, according to its own promotional material. Much of the information collected by Metromail comes from consumer- completed surveys. Smaller firms also sell data on children. Lifestyle Change Communications of Atlanta has data on 33 million children. Best Mailing Lists of Tucson sells names and ages and telephone numbers of 22 million children.

The father of kidnap/murder victim Polly Klaas heads up the coalition that includes child safety and privacy advocates. The group has called for Congressional hearings and federal legislation to stop data base companies from selling personal information on millions of children without parental consent. "Pedophiles use data lists and the Internet to obtain and trade information on children," said Klaas. "These unregulated database companies make it easier."

A class action suit was filed against Donnelley and Metromail last month in Texas, on behalf of an Ohio grandmother, who filled out a Metromail consumer survey thinking she would receive free product samples but got a "sexually graphic and threatening" letter from a convicted rapist who learned about her while keypunching data from Metromail questionnaires at a Texas prison.

News video of KCBS-TV story is available overnight from Delacorte/Shinoff, 415/495-1991. News video from WFAA-TV Dallas showing convicts, including sexual offenders, processing consumer surveys onto Metromail lists is also available.

Klaas writes a daily journal on the trial on the Klaas Foundation web site. For more information on the Kids Off Lists campaign, go to: http://www.klaaskids.inter.net

For further information, contact:

Kyra Phillips, KCBS-TV, 213/460-3044 or 213/460-3316.
Marc Klaas, Polly Klaas Foundation/Kids Off Lists, 415/331-6867