Massachusetts lawsuit accuses Apple of misusing customers' personal info

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 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.

  • Reply 2 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.
  • Reply 3 of 88
    bigmac2bigmac2 Posts: 639member
    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. 

  • Reply 4 of 88
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,352member
    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"
  • Reply 5 of 88
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,165member
    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?
  • Reply 6 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.

  • Reply 7 of 88
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,866member
    Oh boy. Lawyers will make $$$$ while the plaintiffs will get $1.
  • Reply 8 of 88

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

  • Reply 9 of 88
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    "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.)
  • Reply 10 of 88
    [CENTER][/CENTER]
    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).
  • Reply 11 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?
  • Reply 12 of 88
    foadfoad Posts: 707member

    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. 

  • Reply 13 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.
  • Reply 14 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!"
  • Reply 15 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.  

  • Reply 16 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 :)
  • Reply 17 of 88
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 2,351member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 88

    "Taxachusetts", eh?

  • Reply 19 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.
  • Reply 20 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.

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