Updated on April 4th, 2023
Apple Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Data Collection Despite Privacy Settings
Apple is facing a lawsuit from iPhone users who is claiming that the smartphone maker is collecting user data despite turning off tracking in the privacy settings. Gizmodo recently reported that even if a user disabled iPhone Analytics on his/her iPhone, Apple still has the capability to collect user information. This directly contradicts Apple’s own description of how the privacy protection works.
The lawsuit accuses Apple of violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act. According to a lawsuit filed on Thursday in the California federal court, Apple "violates state law in connection with its illegal recording of consumers’ confidential activity on its consumer mobile applications —a huge and growing treasure trove of data that Apple amasses and uses for its own profit."
The "illegal recording" was first discovered by two independent researchers at the software company Mysk, who found that the Apple App Store sends the company exhaustive information about nearly everything a user does in the app. They found that this was despite a privacy setting, iPhone Analytics, that disables the sharing of Device Analytics altogether when turned off. The researchers further found that the problem occurred across most of Apple’s suite of built-in iPhone apps including Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, and Stocks.
A YouTube video posted by Mysk showed how the Apple App Store collects personal data in real-time including the keys that are being tapped on, the apps that are being used, the ads that are being viewed, and even the length of time that a person spends looking at an App Store listing.
The researchers found that Apple also collects data including certain ID numbers, the model of phone, resolution of its display, the type of internet connection, and the language being used on the keyboard. A check on the Stocks app revealed even the list of stocks that a user monitors, the times that he/she has checked for a quote, and any news articles he/she read about the company.
"Through its pervasive and unlawful data tracking and collection business, Apple knows even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing aspects of the user's app usage—regardless of whether the user accepts Apple’s illusory offer to keep such activities private," wrote the lawsuit.
In 2019, Apple had put up a billboard saying "What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone." This created quite a buzz as it was put up at the Las Vegas Convention Center which was home to that year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Looks like the iPhone maker has no plans sticking to its data privacy promises. We will have to wait if this class action lawsuit makes the company change its mind about user privacy.
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