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16 Nov 2022

Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

USA: Lawsuit alleges Apple's assurances on user data collection violate privacy law

"Apple faces new lawsuit over its data collection practices in first-party apps, like the App Store", 13 Nov 2022

A new lawsuit is taking on Apple’s data collection practices in the wake of a recent report by independent researchers who found Apple was continuing to track consumers in its mobile apps, even when they had explicitly configured their iPhone privacy settings to turn tracking off. In a proposed class action lawsuit, plaintiff Elliot Libman is suing on behalf of himself and other impacted consumers, alleging that Apple’s privacy assurances are in violation of the California Invasion of Privacy Act.

As reported last week by Gizmodo, app developers and independent researchers Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry discovered that Apple was still collecting data about its users across a number of first-party apps even when users had turned off an iPhone Analytics setting that promises to “disable the sharing of Device Analytics altogether"...

The App Store, for example, was continuing to track information like what app users tapped on, what they searched, what ads they saw, how long they looked at a given app’s page and how the app was discovered, among other things. The app also then sent details that included ID numbers, type of phone, screen resolution, keyboard languages and more — information that could be used in device fingerprinting.

... Despite configuring these privacy controls, the lawsuit states that Apple “continues to record consumers’ app usage, app browsing communications, and personal information in its proprietary Apple apps,” specifically the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV, Books and Stocks...

The complaint goes on to detail the researchers’ findings, specifying what data was being collected...

In light of these new findings, the lawsuit alleges that Apple’s assurances and promises regarding privacy are “utterly false.” It also pointed out that this level of data collection was out of line with standard industry practices as both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge browser could not collect the same sort of data if their own analytics settings were turned off.

“The data Apple surreptitiously collects is precisely the type of private, personal information consumers wish and expect to protect when they take the steps Apple sets out for users to control the private information Apple collects,” the complaint states…

The plaintiff is looking to have the lawsuit certified as a class action and is seeking compensatory, statutory, and punitive damages in addition to other equitable monetary relief.

Apple has not responded to a request for comment...

This latest lawsuit, though currently smaller in scope than others, has the potential for larger implications if the researchers’ findings turn out to be correct and are held up in court.