If found guilty, Apple could face stiff fines and be forced to rethink its entire apps strategy, even though the company’s App Store Review Guidelines state that “apps cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining the user’s prior permission and providing the user with access to information about how and where the data will be used”.
But the court case states: “Apple claims to review each application before offering it to users, purports to have implemented app privacy standards, and claims to have created ‘strong privacy protections’ for its customers. However, Plaintiffs have discovered that some of these apps have been transmitting their personal, identifying information (‘PII’) to advertising networks without obtaining their consent.”
The complaint goes on to allege that individual iOS devices are “being used by ad networks to track Plaintiff and the Class – including what apps they download, how frequently they use the apps, and for how long”.
In addition, the complaint alleges that “some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users’ location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, and sexual orientation”.
The suit was filed in the US District Court of the Northern District of California. It cites Pandora Radio as a privacy-violating app, saying that it “sends age, gender, and location to a variety of third-party ad networks”, all “without the prior consent of users, in violation of Apple’s app rules, and a variety of state and federal laws”.
According to the complaint, the laws violated by abuse include the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Electronic Communications Privacy Act, plus California’s Unfair Competition Law and Consumer Legal Renedies Act.
The case is expected to be heard later this month.
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