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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Class Claims Apple Apps Spy on Users

SAN JOSE (CN) - Despite its claims of "strong privacy protections," Apple approved applications for iPhones and iPads that intercept personal information and track users' habits without authorization, according to a federal class action. The class claims that apps such as Dictionary.com, Pandora, the Weather Channel and Backflip - creator of the "Paper Toss app" - pass the confidential data along to third-party ad networks.

Jonathan Lalo sued for the class of people who have downloaded apps to their iPhones or iPads "from an Apple-sponsored website."

"Apple claims to review each application before offering it to its users, purports to have implemented app privacy standards, and claims to have created 'strong privacy protections' for its customers," the complaint states. Apple also claims that "it does not allow apps to transmit data about a user without consent."

But Lalo says that each iPhone and iPad is encoded with a "Unique Device Identifier" (UDID), which the user is unable to delete or block. He claims that the apps have access to UDIDs, which can be used to track information about users, "including what apps they download, how frequently they use the apps, and for how long."

"Some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users' location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political view," according to the 19-page complaint.

"For example, Pandora reportedly sends age gender, location and UDIDs to a variety of third-party ad networks," the complaint states.

It continues: "Similarly, according to the Wall Street Journal's investigative coverage reported December 18, 2010, all of the apps listed above transmit UDID and geographic location information, in additional to other information about users and their uses of the apps."

The "merger" of users' confidential information that the ad networks get from the apps constitutes "personal identifiable information," overriding the supposed anonymity of the device's UDID without the person's consent or knowledge, the class says.

The class demands disgorgement, restitution and damages from Apple and the application creators for violations of the Electronic Communications Act and the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and for computer fraud and abuse, unfair competition and unjust enrichment.

Lead counsel is Avi Kreitenberg with Kamber Law in New York.

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