Privacy Lawsuit Against Apple Moves Forward

by , May 7, 2012, 6:31 PM
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Consumers who filed a class-action privacy lawsuit against Apple can proceed with their case, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California set a trial date of Sept. 16 in the case, which was brought by iPhone and iPad users who alleged their privacy was violated when their devices' unique identifiers -- 40-character strings of letters and numbers -- were transmitted to app developers and their affiliates.

Last year, Lucy Koh in San Francisco threw out an earlier version of the potential class-action on the grounds that the users didn't show how they were harmed by the alleged transmissions. But the dismissal was without prejudice, which left the users free to beef up their allegations and try again. 

They amended their complaint by alleging that they were harmed because they wouldn't have paid as much as they did for iPads or iPhones had they known that the devices were capable of transmitting the information.

The consumers also argued that the transmitting data like gender, age, ZIP code, searches performed “and selections of movies, songs, restaurants or even versions of the Bible” consumed battery power, storage and bandwidth.

Apple argued that the consumers still hadn't sufficiently alleged that they suffered any economic injury.

Koh apparently rejected Apple's argument on that point, but hasn't yet issued a written opinion spelling out her reasoning. Koh reportedly narrowed the case by dismissing some of the consumers' claims. 

Although Apple is fighting the lawsuit, the company also recently started rejecting apps that access unique device identifiers, or UDIDs. The move has left some mobile ad networks scrambling to find new tracking methods. A few of the newer options -- such as tracking iPhone users based on their MAC addresses or their phone's digital fingerprints -- are seen as threats to privacy, largely because people have no easy way of deleting a MAC address or digital fingerprint.

Apple isn't the only company to face a privacy lawsuit relating to mobile devices. Google also is defending itself against a potential class-action by Android users who allege that their devices tracked their location. That case is pending in front of U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco.

Also, a resident of Austin, Texas recently sued a slew of app developers and tech companies -- including Path, Hipster, Twitter and Facebook -- for allegedly collecting or storing mobile users' address books.

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