Apple accused of illegally sharing iTunes customer data

apple 2Apple’s attempt to take the moral high ground over privacy – in which it consistently berates the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Google – could come back to bite it on the derrière following the launch of new court action which challenges the firm over the legality of its iTunes data sharing practices.

Apple boss Tim Cook has been a fierce critic of the company’s tech rivals and was one of the first bosses to call for GDPR-style data protection regulation in the US. In June 2018, the firm also declared that it would launch new versions of its iOS and Mac operating systems that would halt the data gathering activities of Facebook and other rivals.

It ratcheted up its privacy stance earlier this year when it unveiled its new advertising strapline: “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.”

However, a group of iPhone users have now launched a class action lawsuit in the States, in which they claim the tech giant is “intentionally and unlawfully” sharing users’ iTunes listening data with third parties.

The federal lawsuit aims to represent hundreds of thousands of residents who allege their data was shared without their consent, according to Bloomberg. The plaintiffs argue that by sharing what users play in iTunes and Apple Music, it allows for “the targeting of particularly vulnerable members of society”.

The plaintiffs allege that third parties can purchase a list of iTunes customers based on different demographic requirements. It cites one example: “Any person or entity could rent a list with the names and addresses of all unmarried, college-educated women over the age of 70 with a household income of over $80,000 who purchased country music from Apple via its iTunes Store mobile application. Such a list is available for approximately $136 per thousand customers listed.”

The data Apple flogs allegedly includes the full names and home addresses of its customers, together with the genres and, in some cases, song titles customers have purchased through the iTunes Store.

The crux of the argument is that while Apple’s privacy policy states that it uses iTunes listening information, downloads, and purchases to personalise customers’ experience and deliver targeted ads on the App Store, it fails to mention that it discloses listening habits to third-parties.

The lawsuit also turns the company’s new strapline on its head by stating: “None of the information pertaining to the music you purchase on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.”

Apple has yet to comment on the action.

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