Apple sued over privacy rights in iPhone ads case

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
An iPhone user has sued Apple over advertisements appearing in mobile apps, following a report that outlined how mobile ads work.



The lawsuit, filed December 23, seeks to establish a class action status covering all iPhone users who have downloaded apps since December 2008, according to a report by Bloomberg.



The complaint appears to be patterned directly upon a Wall Street Journal report from the previous week, which highlighted mobile apps as using the same kind of anonymous user tracking that conventional web ad networks use to improve the relevance of display ads.



The report specifically cited Pandora as sending "age, gender, location and phone identifiers to various ad networks," while noting that the game Paper Toss "sent the phone's ID number to at least five ad companies." Both apps are named in the complaint, and their developers are listed as defendants along with Apple.



The complaint, prepared by attorneys Scott A. Kamber and Avi Kreitenberg of KamberLaw LLC in New York for Jonathan Lalo of Los Angeles, says Apple assigns iOS devices unique device identifiers that "can't be blocked by users," but says that "Apple claims it reviews all applications on its App Store and doesn?t allow them to transmit user data without customer permission."



The lawsuit reportedly alleges that "the transmission of personal information is a violation of federal computer fraud and privacy laws," and suggests that "some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users? location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views."



A similarly sensationalized report published by the LA Times in July resulted in a Congressional inquiry into Apple's policies regarding mobile ads after it suggested Apple was spying on users to track their "precise locations."



Privacy vs advertisers



Apple does allow users to opt out of sharing their location data with advertisers on its own iAd network, and has established a privacy policy that addresses what data apps can obtain, and for what purpose. However, it appears that Apple is allowing Google and other advertisers to act beyond its stated policies.



Apple was also taken to task for establishing privacy policies that competing ad networks deemed a threat to their revenues, which prompted the company to relax its privacy policy regarding third party ad networks in September. Some other mobile platforms have no stated privacy policies and perform no reviews of apps at all.



Outside of malware, apps typically only send general demographic information to help advertisers target their messages to specific audiences, but the implications of tying any data, even anonymously, to a user's hardware in a way that can't be blocked or removed by the user is an emerging controversial issue among privacy advocates.



Blocking all user data or making any such information illegal to send to ad networks would result in making mobile ads much less valuable to advertisers, erasing the ad-supported business model that props up some types of apps in the iOS App Store and the majority of apps in Google's Android Market.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 47
    magicjmagicj Posts: 406member
    Good.
  • Reply 2 of 47
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,157member
    Quote:

    The complaint, prepared by attorneys Scott A. Kamber and Avi Kreitenberg of KamberLaw LLC in New York for Jonathan Lalo of Los Angeles, says Apple assigns iOS devices unique device identifiers that "can't be blocked by users," but says that "Apple claims it reviews all applications on its App Store and doesn’t allow them to transmit user data without customer permission."



    Well.. the UDID is not a users data, it is a device ID and has nothing to do with the user. Apple in their documentations instruct developers not to permanently associate the UDID with the user.



    Furthermore, Apple provided the user with the necessary controls to block any app from using location services. It is not their responsibility if the user voluntarily agreed to the developers terms and agreed to provide such information to them.
  • Reply 3 of 47
    I realize this whole private data business is a slippery slope, and I don't know that I'd want it going past what it has already been.



    But who freaking cares about your phone's ID number, age, location, etc? It's not like there are names, phone numbers, addresses, or anything of the sort being transmitted. It's all anonymous information used for advertising. Nothing more than ad agencies trying to reach their target market.



    Personally, I couldn't care less. Maybe it's because I'm in marketing, so I completely understand the importance of reaching target audiences, but if none of the information is personally identifiable, I think anyone who is upset about this is being a baby and doesn't fully understand what's really going on here.



    As I said, it's a slippery slope. But so far, nothing of much importance has been transmitted. Also, if I'm going to be shown ads (which I am), I'd much rather them be relevant to my life than completely random garbage.
  • Reply 4 of 47
    habihabi Posts: 317member
    What about Android?!?!
  • Reply 5 of 47
    This is a class action lawsuit I would never join, especially as it does more harm than good.



    I don't know all the specifics of this lawsuit, but if it could lead to irreparable harm to a company like Google, RIM or to a lesser extent Apple, in the mobile tech arena, then I want no part.
  • Reply 6 of 47
    Half the apps would break without the phone's ID number. It is integral to how many apps work.

    You HAVE to have a way to identify the uniqueness of a phone otherwise many apps would not be possible.



    I'm already irritated by the popup which asks if I mind my location is to be sent, if this idiot succeeds it will mean even more alert boxes to wade through, destroying the app using experience.
  • Reply 7 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post


    Half the apps would break without the phone's ID number. It is integral to how many apps work.

    You HAVE to have a way to identify the uniqueness of a phone otherwise many apps would not be possible.



    I'm already irritated by the popup which asks if I mind my location is to be sent, if this idiot succeeds it will mean even more alert boxes to wade through, destroying the app using experience.



    Half the apps? Can you please provide a few examples?
  • Reply 8 of 47
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,992member
    Downloading an App involves a conscious decision to do so, there are terms and conditions to be agreed to, it's written there when you install iTunes and is readily available under "View my Account" under "Store" in iTunes.



    It is a voluntary action.



    It's about time you Americans started awarding costs to the losing party in court cases, having the risk of paying Apple's legal expenses would stop a lot of these frivolous suits.
  • Reply 9 of 47
    A full-page iAd came up this morning advertising the Windows 7 Phone OS. Can't say AAPL isn't fair and balanced to advertisers, just not to your personal data.
  • Reply 10 of 47
    The girls at the local gas station know what coffee I drink and make sure it's ready every morning..... The paper boy knows that I like the paper tucked into the storm door rather than laying on the porch..... my car moves the seat and steering wheel into MY position when I get in...



    Everyone like to have things personalized to their needs. The AD companies are simply trying to do the same.



    This is nothing more than another person looking for a short cut to a financial payout.



    I'm with the other responder.... If you challenge and loose, you should pay.



    Oh, and it's NOT the companies tracking my purchases that scare me.... it's the freaks that don't want ANYONE to know what they're up to that scare me..
  • Reply 11 of 47
    If the App developers get enough money from the ads and give Apple a cut, Apple will ignore the privacy violations. Money is far more important than privacy.
  • Reply 12 of 47
    What are the odds this guy has a Facebook account?
  • Reply 13 of 47
    We have crossed the slippery slope point a long time ago. It is a little scary what marketers know about their targets. There are different things that people want to keep confidential... for very different reasons. There is no reason that something you pay "full price" on should spy on you for a service that you have no connection to. In that regard, I don't like Apple pushing ad sponsorship of apps.



    ...but, I do acknowledge the developer's right to profit from their efforts, and I appreciate free apps as a way to try something out without risk. It is just a shame you can't opt-out of advertising by paying for the software or service.
  • Reply 14 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Curmudgeon View Post


    Half the apps? Can you please provide a few examples?



    OK half is probably an exaggeration because the simple apps water down the stats. But it's probably near half of all 'serious' apps. It's useful during the registration process. Can help prevent the user from creating multiple accounts plus other stuff.

    I can not give specific examples because I would be breaking my clients trust.
  • Reply 15 of 47
    nealgnealg Posts: 132member
    The next lawsuit against Apple will be a class action by developers for protecting the privacy of its users too much.



    The fastest growing department at Apple has got to be its legal department.



    Neal
  • Reply 16 of 47
  • Reply 17 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post


    It is a little scary what marketers know about their targets.



    Generally the marketers cannot access info specific to a person, they 'use' this info in a blanket fashion as in "display this toy advert to all people under age 26 who have used the key term 'rubiks cube'" as aposed to "target Larry Smith from shoreditch london".



    The marketers do not 'know' about their targets. But they can 'target' their targets.
  • Reply 18 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TimUSCA View Post


    I realize this whole private data business is a slippery slope, and I don't know that I'd want it going past what it has already been.



    But who freaking cares about your phone's ID number, age, location, etc? It's not like there are names, phone numbers, addresses, or anything of the sort being transmitted. It's all anonymous information used for advertising. Nothing more than ad agencies trying to reach their target market.



    Personally, I couldn't care less. Maybe it's because I'm in marketing, so I completely understand the importance of reaching target audiences, but if none of the information is personally identifiable, I think anyone who is upset about this is being a baby and doesn't fully understand what's really going on here.



    As I said, it's a slippery slope. But so far, nothing of much importance has been transmitted. Also, if I'm going to be shown ads (which I am), I'd much rather them be relevant to my life than completely random garbage.



    It's not about the anonymous details like age and gender, it's about tying it to a unique piece of information that you cannot block or change and that can actually tell the advertiser your exact address, buying habits sexual orientation, where you travel and when. It's not just the information that the phone sends, it is connected with your credit card purchases, contests you enter, flights you take. With the phone they can now actually see your location and they make the assumption that where your located most is your home address and could drive right to your house. I don't care if they track my likes and send me ads based on that, but I do not want them to know how to drive to my house, or when I am in the bathroom.
  • Reply 19 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post


    Generally the marketers cannot access info specific to a person, they 'use' this info in a blanket fashion as in "display this toy advert to all people under age 26 who have used the key term 'rubiks cube'" as aposed to "target Larry Smith from shoreditch london".



    The marketers do not 'know' about their targets. But they can 'target' their targets.



    The can, using all the information from the phone and from other sources they can learn everything about you. Where you are at any given time of the day, what you bought and for whom if it was a gift, if you are in proximity to another device and who that person is, are you cheating on your partner, are you married man and having an interlude with a man? All this can be gleaned with the information that is out there about us. With the mobile phone, there is one piece of information that makes it all possible, the ID code. It cannot be change or hidden. Are you sure you want advertisers to know when you are in the bedroom?
  • Reply 20 of 47
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Radjin View Post


    It's not about the anonymous details like age and gender, it's about tying it to a unique piece of information that you cannot block or change and that can actually tell the advertiser your exact address, buying habits sexual orientation



    Again, the advertiser will not be given your "exact address" they will be given options to target users within a post code range or province or state or country.



    This is just way over hyped. That said, I can't stand googles or facebooks approach to privacy, they just dont seem to give a crap. But even with these two rogue companies, they still will not allow my company access to information specific to a user.



    This has just been span out of all proportion by idiot magazines selling to the paranoid. Wired being a prime example.
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