Judge Narrows Privacy Lawsuit Against Apple

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Apple's privacy policy says it isn't responsible when app developers violate users' privacy. But the company also allegedly promises users that it takes precautions to protect their privacy.

Those arguably contradictory statements are among the reasons a federal judge rejected the company's motion to dismiss a class-action privacy lawsuit brought by iPhone and iPad users. The consumers allege their privacy was violated when their devices' unique identifiers -- 40-character strings of letters and numbers -- were transmitted by Apple to app developers and their affiliates.

U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in San Francisco ruled in May that the consumers could proceed with some of their claims against Apple, but didn't issue a written opinion in the case until late Tuesday.

In her 44-page decision, Koh rejected Apple's motion to dismiss claims that it violated two California consumer protection laws, including the Consumer Legal Remedies Act. That law prohibits companies from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts; the consumers argue that Apple violated the statute by misrepresenting that its devices came with safeguards that would protect users' privacy. But Koh granted Apple's motion to dismiss a host of other allegations, including claims that it violated federal wiretap laws, computer fraud laws and the California constitution. Koh specifically ruled that Apple's alleged transmission of users' data isn't the kind of "egregious breach of social norms" that's covered by the California constitution.

Last year, Koh dismissed an earlier version of the lawsuit on the grounds that users didn't show how they were harmed by the alleged transmissions. The consumers subsequently amended their lawsuit to include allegations that they wouldn't have paid as much as they did for iPads or iPhones had they known the devices were capable of transmitting the information. The users also argued that transmitting data -- including material like gender, age, ZIP code and searches -- consumed battery power, storage and bandwidth.

Koh ruled that those allegations of economic harm were sufficient for the consumers to proceed.

Apple recently started rejecting apps that access unique device identifiers, or UDIDs. The company reportedly will soon unveil a new tracking mechanism.

Google also faces a potential class-action by Android users who allege the devices tracked their location. That case is pending in front of U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco.

Tags: apple, legal, privacy
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1 comment about "Judge Narrows Privacy Lawsuit Against Apple".
  1. Peter Hamilton from HasOffers , June 14, 2012 at 1:40 p.m.
    I understand the privacy concerns, but the monetary damages presented here by the "consumers" seem to be stretching it. Transmitting data like gender, age and zipcode consumes battery power, storage and bandwidth?? Are they going to attempt to quantify those numbers for all California citizens with an iphone? It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Apple's new device identifiers for advertising and for vendors.