Lawsuit Filed Over iPhone Privacy

Your personal information might be more widely available than you are aware and may be being sold to advertisers. The Times Herald-Record (RecordOnline) just reported on a class action lawsuit filed against technology giant, Apple Inc., and two app developers. Allegations include that a plaintiff’s movements—obtained via their iPhones and iPads—were tracked and then sold to advertisers. The plaintiff is represented by the national law firm of <"">Parker Waichman Alonso LLP.

The lawsuit, filed by Jarret Ammer in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that Pandora Media and Backflip Studios apps use Unique Device IDs (UDIDs) in iPhones and iPads to track users’ physical locations, said RecordOnline. Backflip Studios is known for its PaperToss application, said Apple Insider.

Information sold to third-party advertisers is used target marketing at users based on locations and preferences, noted RecordOnline, which added that the lawsuit also alleges that Apple is complicit in these activities by making it impossible for its users to delete or restrict UDID access. It is widely understood that surfing the Internet will result in cookies, which are embedded in computers; however, unlike UDIDs, users can delete cookies. There is no way in which users can disable or block UDIDs, explained RecordOnline.

The lawsuit also alleges “violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the New York Computer Crime Law, the Unfair Trade Practices Act and trespasses to personal property, common law conversion, and unjust enrichment,” wrote RecordOnline. The lawsuit is seeking damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees and is also seeking an injunction to stop these companies from continuing these controversial activities, said RecordOnline. Apple Insider wrote that the lawsuit also alleges that Apple and its developers violated general business law as it concerns “unconscionable and deceptive conduct … trespass to personal property” and taking property via “information that is private and personal.”

“Think of all the data that one has stored on a cell phone. It’s unbelievable,” said Peter Cambs Sr., a senior litigation counsel at Parker Waichman Alonso, quoted RecordOnline. “I think most people think when they purchase a device that there’s some privacy. Do you have an expectation that somebody’s going to be able to use your phone to track your whereabouts? I think most people have a reasonable expectation of privacy that that’s not going to happen,” Cambs Sr. added.

The lawsuit states “Apple certainly understands the significance of its UDID and users’ privacy,” since, “internally Apple claims that it treats UDID information as ‘personally identifiable information’ because, if combined with other information, it can be used to personally identify a user,” quoted Apple Insider. The complaint stresses that Apple “does not provide users any way to delete or restrict access to their devices’ UDIDs.”

“None of these Defendants adequately disclose to Plaintiff and members of the proposed Class that they are transmitting such information to third-party advertising networks,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff and members of the proposed class were harmed by Defendants’ actions in that their personal, private information was obtained without their knowledge or consent,” quoted Apple Insider.

A 2010 study of iPhone applications conducted by a Eric Smith, a security expert at Bucknell University, revealed that the UDID Apple assigns to every phone opens up the issue of privacy violations. “iPhone Applications & Privacy Issues,” written by Smith, assistant director of information security and networking at Bucknell, tested 57 iPhone apps and determined that 68 percent transmit UDIDs to a remote server that is either owned by the app developer or an advertising partner, said Apple Insider.

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