Apple Fights Class Action Over Address Book Uploads

Apple is urging a federal judge to shut down a false advertising class action brought by iPhone and iPad users who say they were duped into believing that phones would protect their privacy.

The company's request, filed late last week, is the latest development in long-running litigation over allegations that Twitter, Yelp and other app developers uploaded people's address books.

The dispute dates to 2012, when researchers revealed that mobile social network Path (now Kong Technologies) and Hipster (later acquired and shut down by AOL) accessed and stored users' address books without their knowledge. Security researchers subsequently accused other developers -- including Foodspotting, Foursquare Labs, Gowalla, Instagram, Kik Interactive, Twitter and Yelp -- of uploading users' address books. Unlike Path, those other developers reportedly asked people for permission to access their address books, in order to help them connect with friends who also used the service. But Foodspotting, Yelp, Twitter and the others allegedly didn't say they would keep the data in their servers.

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iPhone user Marc Opperman, and other consumers, sued Apple and more than a dozen developers for allegedly violating users' privacy. The app developers agreed to resolve the allegations and are expected to detail the settlement terms later this month.

The claims against Apple include accusations that the company misled users with ads touting security features that were supposed to protect users' data. The consumers have asked U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco to allow them to bring a class action on behalf of everyone who purchased an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch before 2012.

In papers filed with Tigar on Friday, Apple calls the proposed class "wildly overbroad," arguing that it would include "tens of millions of people who never downloaded or used any of the eleven apps that allegedly committed the privacy violations at issue."

The class would be made up of "people who never had their contacts improperly accessed or uploaded and who could never have suffered the claimed injury to privacy interests that Plaintiffs have long said drove this litigation," Apple adds.

The company also argues that the consumers haven't shown that all purchasers were "exposed to uniform misrepresentations" in ads, and that it publicly acknowledged that some app developers might violate Apple's policies.

If Apple prevails, individual users would still be able to sue, but the cost of doing so tends to be prohibitively expensive.

Tigar is slated to explore Apple's request at a hearing in May.

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