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Apple get sued over privacy rights

It was going to happen, but Apple are being sued by an iPhone user over advertisements appearing in mobile applications.

The lawsuit is dated December 23rd and seeks to establish a class action status covering all iPhone users who have downloaded any applications since December 2008, according to Bloomberg.

This complaint is related to a report filed by the Wall Street Journal a week earlier which shows mobile apps are using the same kind of anonymous user tracking that conventional web ad networks utilise to enhance the relevance of display advertisements.

This report said that Pandora sends ‘gender, age, location and phone identifiers to various ad networks’ and that the game Paper Toss ‘sent the phones ID number to at least five ad companies’. Both of these applications are documented in the complaint and the developers are listed as defendants beside Apple themselves.

This complaint was prepared by Scott A. Kamber and Avi Kreitenberg of Kamberlaw LLC in New York for Jonathan Laio of Los Angeles. It says that Apple assigns iOS devices unique device identifiers that ‘can’t be blocked by users’ but says that ‘Apple claims it reviews all applications on its App Store and doesn’t allow them to transmit user data without customer permission.’

The lawsuit also states that ‘the transmission of personal information is a violation of federal computer fraud and privacy laws, and some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users’ location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views.”

Apple, in their defense do allow users to opt out of sharing their location data with advertisers on their own iAd network and has established a privacy setup which addresses the specific data an application can obtain and for certain purposes. It does appear though that Apple are allowing Google and other advertisers to act beyond their stated policies.

KitGuru says: If this plays out badly for Apple, it will look very bad indeed.

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