Apple Hit With Privacy Complaint Over Data Collection

A New York resident has sued Apple for allegedly collecting information about iPhone users' interactions with its apps, even when the users attempt to opt out of the data collection.

“Apple records, tracks, collects and monetizes analytics data -- including browsing history and activity information -- regardless of what safeguards or “privacy settings” consumers undertake to protect their privacy,” Elliot Libman alleges in a class-action complaint brought Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

He claims Apple is violating California privacy laws, including one that prohibits companies from electronically eavesdropping on confidential communications.

“Even when consumers follow Apple’s own instructions and turn off 'Allow Apps to Request to Track' and/or 'Share [Device] Analytics' on their privacy controls, Apple nevertheless continues to record consumers’ app usage, app browsing communications, and personal information in its proprietary Apple apps, including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, and Stocks,” the complaint continues.

Libman's complaint cites research by app developers Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry, who reported recently that Apple's own apps -- including the App Store Apple Music, Apple TV, Books and Stocks -- collected data about people's interactions with apps, even when the users hadn't agreed to share analytics information with Apple.

Apple has long said it does't consider that type of data collection to be “tracking,” given that the data originates with its own apps and services.

But others say Apple's stance might come as a surprise to users, given its ad campaigns that focus on the iPhones privacy features. For instance, earlier this year, researchers at University of Oxford said in a research paper that Apple's data collection practices “might go against users’ reasonable privacy expectations.”

Libman alleges that Apple's data gathering practices “infringe upon consumers’ privacy; intentionally deceive consumers; give Apple and its employees power to learn intimate details about individuals’ lives, interests, and app usage; and make Apple a potential target for 'one-stop shopping' by any government, private, or criminal actor who wants to undermine individuals’ privacy, security, or freedom.”

Apple hasn't yet responded to a request for comment.

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