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Massachusetts lawsuit accuses Apple of misusing customers' personal info

post #1 of 88
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Adding to Apple's mountain of legal conflict, a lawsuit filed this week in New England claims that Apple collected retail customers' zip codes in violation of state law and then profited from the sale of that information to third parties.

Apple Store Boylston Street
Apple's Boylston Street store in Boston


Plaintiffs Adam Christensen, Jeffrey Scolnick, and William Farrell claim that they were forced to provide their zip code when making credit card purchases at Apple retail stores in Massachusetts, a practice that the suit contends is illegal under the Massachusetts Unfair Trade Practices Act. That statute makes it unlawful to compel customers to provide personally identifiable information beyond that which is required by credit card issuers to verify the transaction.

The complaint goes on to allege that Apple not only collects this information, but then sells it to other companies for profit. As proof, the suit offers a passage from Apple's privacy policy that states "Apple may make certain personal information available to strategic partners that work with Apple to provide products and services, or that help Apple market to customers."

This has caused the plaintiffs harm, the suit says, in the following ways:

First, Plaintiffs and the Class have been injured because they have received unwanted marketing materials from Apple as a result of having provided their zip codes when using credit cards at Apple. Second, Plaintiffs and the Class have been injured by Apple's sale of Plaintiffs' and the Class' PII to third-parties, which was collected by Apple in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93 ? 105(c). And third, Plaintiffs and the Class have been injured because Apple misappropriated their economically valuable PII [Personally Identifiable Information] without consideration.



Christensen, Scolnick, and Farrell seek certification as representatives of a class that would include anyone "from whom Apple requested and recorded personal identification information in conjunction with a credit card transaction occurring in Massachusetts."

On behalf of that class, the group is seeking damages of up to $75 per violation, interest on those damages, litigation expenses and attorneys' fees, and "such other and further relief as may be just and proper." The petition also asks for an injunction that would force Apple to stop collecting zip codes in the state.

The plaintiffs' law firm first contacted Apple with the complaint last April in a bid to settle without going to court. At the time, they sought damages of just $25 per violation, attorneys' fees, and "a reasonable incentive reward...for services as the proposed class representative."

Notably, the earlier complaint did not accuse Apple of profiting from the sale of the data to third parties. That charge was tacked on once the suit was filed, and the reason for its late addition is unknown.

Apple has not yet responded to the suit.
post #2 of 88

I think it would have been useful to clarify in the headline that a few stupid people in MA brought the lawsuit, i.e., it's not a 'Massachusetts lawsuit....'.

 

This will get thrown out.

post #3 of 88
This is going to end up getting tossed. A credit card billing zip code could be considered required by credit card issuers in order to verify a transaction.
post #4 of 88
Quote:

Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post
 

First, Plaintiffs and the Class have been injured because they have received unwanted marketing materials

 

Ouch, poor guys being injured by marketing material, they should have a hard time living in this country.  I wonder how they could use the internet with constant unwanted marketing material poping out on every web site. 

post #5 of 88
First, many credit processing systems require a ZIP code to verify the credit card's authenticity. This is quite a common practice especially with the level of hacking we've seen lately with Target, etc.

Second, there's no correlation between what a legal document claims to allow and what was actually done. What's put in privacy policies is intentionally broad and usually applies only to the transaction method employed. For instance, a privacy policy on a website doesn't necessarily mean that's the same privacy policy used in a store. Who said they sold it to another party? Perhaps the ZIP code was just used to process the credit card transaction.

Third, if you're that dang paranoid, how about you use cash and wear an aluminum foil hat? Or as Sir Jonny Ive says "Aluminium Fedora"
post #6 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

I think it would have been useful to clarify in the headline that a few stupid people in MA brought the lawsuit, i.e., it's not a 'Massachusetts lawsuit....'.

This will get thrown out.

...and if not thrown out then settled quickly. Discovery in a privacy case seldom comes out well IMO. There will be something somewhere that would reflect poorly on Apple. Doesn't the media always find something?
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post #7 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by pegarm View Post

This is going to end up getting tossed. A credit card billing zip code could be considered required by credit card issuers in order to verify a transaction.


And of course comply with some local and state laws concerning collecting taxes.

 

They have to prove that the Zip Code data is actually something that was being sold. Not that I'm for anyone data mining customers -- but "zip code" data? Is that somehow narrower focused than my SS number and GPS coordinate that everyone and their brother seem to be playing with?

 

Apple is getting sued because they have a lot of money.

post #8 of 88
Oh boy. Lawyers will make $$$$ while the plaintiffs will get $1.
post #9 of 88

I'm suing Apple because they asked which country I lived in

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post #10 of 88
"Apple may make certain personal information available to strategic partners that work with Apple to provide products and services, or that help Apple market to customers."

THAT is "proof" of "selling" info?

(Obviously not the business Apple is in.)
post #11 of 88
I had a consumer come up to me in Wisconsin at my sales table who objected to me taking his address information of a credit card transaction. Said it was a violation of state law. I simply said, "Then I won't sell this to you!" He changed his mind. I should have gotten him to write on a slip of paper that he did indeed to asset in case later he changed his tune.

Did this clown object at the time this was done? Apple doesn't need freaks like this to make a bigger pile of cash (which will go mostly for the ambulance chasers).
post #12 of 88
I'm curious how Apple was allegedly sending marketing material to people when all they had was their zip codes. Did they just print "Bob Jones, 02118" on the envelope?

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post #13 of 88

What does collecting a ZIP for credit card authorization have to do with Apple taking that information and sending you marketing material?

 

Additionally, from what I have noticed Apple is typically opt in with communications. 

post #14 of 88
Whenever I use my CC to purchase gasoline, I am asked for my zip. This is virtually SOP (standard operating procedure) these days.
Ambulance chasing lawyers will drive us all to the poor house.
post #15 of 88
When I'm buying gas, the auto-pump always asks for the ZIP code, I'm like "Dude, I am safe pumping gas here because NO one knows by ZIP code." But maybe I should be, like, "Dude! They want to know my ZIP code! Ouch, that really hurts! And privacy! Only the US Post Office gets to know that!"
post #16 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Lowney View Post

Whenever I use my CC to purchase gasoline, I am asked for my zip. This is virtually SOP (standard operating procedure) these days.
Ambulance chasing lawyers will drive us all to the poor house.

True for gas stations.  But I've never been asked for my zip code to verify a credit card transaction that I made in store.  However I am from California which may be different from other states such as Massachusetts.  

post #17 of 88
I don't believe that I have received any marketing materials from Apple because of my zipcode. Hmmm on the other hand those Dominos pizza coupons and carpet cleaning services sure got me suspicious of Apple selling my zipcode now, thanks dumb and dumber for making me aware of this. I am getting a lawyer 1smile.gif
post #18 of 88
Jesus! Stupid and Greedy Americans. The USPS, a subsidiary of US government has been used by partners stuffing my mail box with unwanted materials causing me countless harms.
post #19 of 88

"Taxachusetts", eh?

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post #20 of 88
If I'm traveling outside my area of residence, doesn't matter which State I'm in (including Mass.), if I purchase gas on my credit card I'm asked to enter my zip code. This looks to me like governmental abuse of the legal system, for profit.
post #21 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobbyfozz View Post
 
 
I had a consumer come up to me in Wisconsin at my sales table who objected to me taking his address information of a credit card transaction. Said it was a violation of state law. I simply said, "Then I won't sell this to you!" 

 

He's right and you're admitting to a violation of state law with a penalty of $100 or damages. Read Wis. Stat. 423.401.

 

You're obviously not a regular merchant because stores do get checked and fined because of violations like this. Price labeling and scan accuracy has been a big one of late.

post #22 of 88

These three lowlife losers from Mass. are just looking for a quick buck. Suing because they were asked for a zipcode when making a credit card transaction? Maybe it's in place for security reasons and to protect against fraud. I ordered something yesterday from a site, and get this, I know it sounds crazy, but I had to provide my personal info! The bastards! Maybe I should sue the retailer?

 

These three people who were apparently dropped on their heads when they were infants should be banned from ever purchasing any Apple product for the rest of their lives.

 

Since these three lowlife losers have such a huge problem with giving out their zipcode when making a credit card purchase, then hopefully these losers will be the victims of identity theft very soon.

 

I hope that they get their cards stolen, and then the thieves go crazy with the cards, at places that don't ask for zipcodes, obviously.

 

To sum things up, screw them. Somebody really rich should sue them back, hit them with a ton of nonsense lawsuits.

post #23 of 88

Ah... Looks like the AAPL shorts got their groove back. Down $13 today based on... the sky is blue?

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post #24 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gregg Thurman View Post

If I'm traveling outside my area of residence, doesn't matter which State I'm in (including Mass.), if I purchase gas on my credit card I'm asked to enter my zip code. This looks to me like governmental abuse of the legal system, for profit.

Isn't that only when paying directly at the pump? I've never been asked for any personal information, even a zipcode, if paying inside (as long as the card was signed). Outside with no one verifying the card you're using looks legitimate it becomes no different than online purchases where addresses need to match for the transaction to go thru. In this case apparently Apple employees were still asking for a zip even with the card in hand? Doesn't mean they were doing anything particularly wrong but it is pretty unusual when you and the card are both present.
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post #25 of 88

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled back in March that it was a violation to require a zip code, then use a reverse phone book technique to figure out the customer's address, and then send direct advertising to that address. The court awarded no damages though. Similar judgements have occurred in a handful of other states. However, unless the plaintiffs can prove that Apple acted similarly - i.e. not only asked for a zip code but also figured out addresses from it to send direct advertising, or sold the information to a third party who then did that, it's hard to see how this case will succeed.

post #26 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetry View Post

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled back in March that it was a violation to require a zip code, then use a reverse phone book technique to figure out the customer's address, and then send direct advertising to that address. The court awarded no damages though. Similar judgements have occurred in a handful of other states. However, unless the plaintiffs can prove that Apple acted similarly - i.e. not only asked for a zip code but also figured out addresses from it to send direct advertising, or sold the information to a third party who then did that, it's hard to see how this case will succeed.

By adding the "profiting from the information" accusation they may be trying to pressure Apple into a settlement rather than taking it to trial. I would doubt Apple wants to be ordered into compliance with discovery requests on how or with who customer information is shared. If it gets to that point I personally believe Apple will settle out of court for a relatively minor amount of money. As I mentioned earlier stuff coming out of the discovery process in a privacy case often ends up as fodder for the press.
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post #27 of 88
"Forced" - so the Apple Store employee held a gun to their head? What can the store do if you say no? or make one up?
If unwanted marketing materials were hazardous I'd have been dead several times over long ago.

And how is your zip code any more personally identifying that whatever info is encoded on your credit card - and your email address if you use that for a copy of your receipt?
post #28 of 88
Way offtopic, but do these pumps accept Canadian postal codes, or do they need to be all numeric US zip codes? Would Canadians have to go inside to pay in this case?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DogCowabunga View Post

When I'm buying gas, the auto-pump always asks for the ZIP code, I'm like "Dude, I am safe pumping gas here because NO one knows by ZIP code." But maybe I should be, like, "Dude! They want to know my ZIP code! Ouch, that really hurts! And privacy! Only the US Post Office gets to know that!"

 

post #29 of 88
I have to enter my zip code, on every Amex transaction at the gas pumps. That guy suing Amex and the oil companies too?
post #30 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by rkevwill View Post

I have to enter my zip code, on every Amex transaction at the gas pumps. That guy suing Amex and the oil companies too?

Do you have to do the same thing if you pay inside, presenting the cashier with your credit card? Outside there's no one verifying it's your credit card and no place for a signature.
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post #31 of 88
Remember back in 2010, when three enterprising California lawyers filed a class action against Apple, claiming that they were duped by advertising when their iPads shut down after being used in hot sunlight? A few months later a judge tossed that one. These suits are in the same frivolous class as the "sue McDonald's because the coffee's too hot."

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post #32 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gregg Thurman View Post

If I'm traveling outside my area of residence, doesn't matter which State I'm in (including Mass.), if I purchase gas on my credit card I'm asked to enter my zip code. This looks to me like governmental abuse of the legal system, for profit.

No, it's for your protection and the merchant's. It's good (but not perfect) odds that someone who steals your physical credit card doesn't know your zip code. If the credit card issuer can't authenticate the zip code, the approval doesn't go through. Moreover, if the card gets disapproved too many times, the credit card's fraud department may put a hold on your card. Happened to me about a year ago in Florida, though I live in the Midwest, due to a defective card reader at a gas station. When I discovered that evening at a hotel that the card had been stopped, I called the 800 number on the back of the card. Once they verified that the card was still in possession of its rightful user, they lifted the hold immediately.


Edited by Kibitzer - 1/17/14 at 7:20pm

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post #33 of 88

Only very rarely. Sometimes it asks for it the zip code on those scanners at the cash register, however they sometimes ask to see the CC, so they can verify the security code. Usually with my amex, they never ask for anything. Below $50 most places, I never even have to sign.

post #34 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


Do you have to do the same thing if you pay inside, presenting the cashier with your credit card? Outside there's no one verifying it's your credit card and no place for a signature.

 

It depends on the charged amount, among other things.  I've noticed that above a certain amount, my ZIP is also required in a indoor-face-to-face sale.

 

I guess Massachusetts doesn't consider credit card fraud a problem there...?

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post #35 of 88
There’s nothing nefarious going on here.

In my own little company, we have three different discount rates as per our agreement with VISA/MasterCard; all expressly related to security:
Cheapest Rate: Direct swipe of credit card through machine at time of purchase.
Slightly Higher Rate: Key in credit card number and expiration date, as well as CVVS code, street address number, and zip code.
Highest Rate: Key in credit card number and expiration date only.

So, let me get this straight. These people want their credit card transactions to be LESS secure?!?
post #36 of 88
Apple asks for zip at the end of the transaction to help determine where to put new stores. Data is only shared with partners assisting in real estate strategy. Pointless lawsuit. Pointless article.
post #37 of 88
People don't go out of their way to do these things. They would be paying lot more in lawyers fee than whatever that they would end up getting from apple.
They clearly have some ulterior motives(apple shorts, getting paid by apple competitors, etc)
post #38 of 88
Utter hogwash. If they get any traction it will be interesting to see what happens to Google as Google gives the personal information and location of every Android user to every app developer in Google Play at purchase of an app without authorization from Android customers.
post #39 of 88

No he is NOT right. I simply said, "You want to possess something I own and you want it. But if I take your card (it was a manual transaction) and it turns out you are using (knowingly) a card which can't be used, and I can't collect automatically, then I have to write to you to have you pay me in some other way and I don't have your information, you have committed a crime." So in that case, I prefer to NOT do business with you because I do not know you. Whoever came up with that law (and there are a lot of them in WIS) was never a businessperson and prefers one side over the other in the transaction (that is, the businessperson takes it in the shorts). He could very well have said, "If that's the case I don't want you to sell me this because I would then have to be an asshole." But he didn't because he wasn't. You, however, have way too much time on your hands.

post #40 of 88
Quote:
Originally Posted by JavaCowboy View Post

Way offtopic, but do these pumps accept Canadian postal codes, or do they need to be all numeric US zip codes? Would Canadians have to go inside to pay in this case?

It depends on the gas station. Speedway in Ohio will accept a Canadian postal code. BP and many others will not and you'll have to go inside to prepay and sign the credit card slip.
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