Apple sued over iPhone privacy settings after Gizmodo story

An iPhone on a table

Photo: LOIC VENANCE / Employee (Getty Images)

Apple is facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly collecting iPhone user data, even if the company’s own privacy settings promise not to. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in California federal court, comes days later Gizmodo reported exclusively investigating how multiple iPhone apps send Apple analytics data, regardless of whether the iPhone Analytics privacy setting is turned on or off.

The problem was spotted by two independent researchers from the software company Mysk, who found that the Apple App Store sends the company comprehensive information about almost everything a user does in the app, despite a privacy setting, iPhone Analytics, which claims “the completely sharing Device Analytics” when disabled. Gizmodo asked the researchers to run additional tests on other iPhone apps, including Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, and Stocks. The researchers found that the problem persists in most built-in iPhone apps. apps from Apple.

The lawsuit accuses Apple of violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act. “Privacy is one of the key issues that Apple uses to differentiate its products from competitors,” the plaintiff, Elliot Libman, said in the lawsuit, which can be read at Bloomberg’s Law. “But Apple’s privacy guarantees are completely illusory.” The company has plastered billboards across the country with the slogan ‘Privacy. That’s iPhone.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As shown in a video posted to the Mysk YouTube channel, the App Store appears to collect information about your activity in real time, including what you tap, what apps you search for, what ads you see, how you found a particular app and how long you looked at the app’s page.

Apple’s privacy settings make explicit promises about disabling that kind of tracking. But in the tests, turning off the iPhone Analytics setting had no apparent effect on data collection, nor were the iPhone’s other built-in settings designed to protect your privacy from Apple’s data collection.

Mysk’s tests on the App Store found that Apple receives that data, along with details that can identify you and your device, including ID numbers, what kind of phone you’re using, your screen resolution, your keyboard languages, and how you’re connected to the Internet — the kind of information commonly used for device fingerprinting.

The App Store on your iPhone tracks your every move

When the researchers looked at other iPhone apps at Gizmodo’s request, they found that many behaved in the same way. While the Health and Wallet apps didn’t collect analytics, Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, the iTunes Store, and Stocks all did. The Stocks app has shared data, including your list of stocks viewed, the names of stocks you viewed or searched for and timestamps for when you did it, as well as a summary of all the news articles you saw in the app.

“The level of detail is shocking for a company like Apple,” Tommy Mysk previously told Gizmodo.

This data can be sensitive, especially when you consider that just searching for apps related to topics like religion, LGBTQ issues, health and addiction can reveal details about a person’s life.

“Due to its ubiquitous and illegitimate data tracking and collection activities, Apple knows even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing aspects of the user’s app usage — whether or not the user accepts Apple’s illusory offer to keep such activities private,” the lawsuit said. .

Apple is being monitored more closely for its privacy practices as the company expands into digital advertising. Apple recently new ads introduced on the App Store, are reportedly planning to ads on Apple TVand seems focused on poaching small business advertisers from Meta, the parent company of Facebook. While Apple’s corporate literature loudly declares that “Privacy is a human right,” it remains to be seen to what extent the iPhone manufacturer is willing to compromise that right when developing new data-driven business ventures.