Apple Sued Over App Privacy Breaches


Earlier, we wrote that some apps in the iOS (s aapl) App Store were relaying information, including address, age, gender and unique device identifiers to third parties without a user’s knowledge. Now, Bloomberg says Apple and several app makers are being sued for the perceived breaches.

The suit was filed on Dec. 23 in federal court in San Jose, Calif. and seeks class action status, though it was initially filed on behalf of Jonathan Lalo. The complaint accuses Apple and applications like Pandora, Paper Toss, the Weather Channel and of transmitting personal information to advertising networks for tracking purposes. In the suit, Apple is accused of violating its own policy of not allowing apps to transmit data without customer consent.

If class action status is granted, there could potentially be a massive defendant pool, since anyone who downloaded an app on either iPhone, iPad or iPod touch between Dec. 1, 2008 and last week.

The suit stems from a Wall Street Journal (s nws) investigation that found that of 101 apps tested, 56 transmitted some personal data to third-party advertising agencies, and that many did so without notifying the user that any information was being shared. The WSJ report also found Android (s goog) apps were just as likely to share data, but Android users know that you can see exactly what kind of data your apps have access to in the applications management setting. Apple doesn’t offer a similar breakdown.

Apple couldn’t be reached for comment as of this writing. What do you think? Overreaction, or a fair response to somewhat shady information sharing practices?

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“there could potentially be a massive defendant pool […]”

Wouldn’t that be a claimant pool?


Apple has been standing on a soapbox for years, talking about impervious security and a good, wholesome user experience. Their strict AppStore approval process was supposedly to catch issues just like this one, yet has apparently failed miserably. The fallout from this could be more damaging to them than antennagate ever was.

If Apple iOS is less secure than android or wm7, then the appeal of their specific device, then the value of the iOS device will be diminished in the eyes of many consumers. May people buy Apple devices because they trust Apple.

Apple will have to act fast and harshly to retain consumer confidence.

Andrew MacDonald

I am a self-proclaimed Apple Fanboy, so part of me wants to say no, the lawsuit is over the top, but on the other hand – my sensible head – I do think Apple are misleading its customers.

In its privacy and terms of use, Apple does state that no apps in the App Store will transmit any personal information without the users consent, yet the WSJ have proved a hefty amount of apps are doing just that. And Apple MUST know about this, since they vet every app before it even appears in the store.

What will Apple do about this? I think they will suspend the offending apps asap and put tighter controls on apps transmitting data in order for this not to become a whole ‘Privacygate’, as it’s bound to be labeled by the bloggers / press.

Just my two cents.

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