class action lawsuit, accused of allowing iPad and iPhone apps to transmit users' personal information to advertising networks without their consent.Apple, along with several prominent iOS app developers, has been hit with a
The suit was filed on Dec. 23 in federal court in San Jose, California and centers on the use of the Unique Device Identifier (UDID). According to the lawsuit, this unique identifying number "transmits that information along with the device's location data to third-party advertisers."
The suit also contends that some apps share users' location, age and gender with advertisers; Pandora, Dictionary.com, the Weather Channel, TextPlus and others are named, along with Apple, as defendants in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit follows a Wall Street Journal story earlier this month that found that over half of the 100 popular apps it examined transmitted the UDID, along with other information, to other companies - all without users' awareness or consent.
For its part, Apple says that apps "cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining the user's prior permission and providing the user with access to information about how and where the data will be used." But according to the WSJ investigation, many apps seem to violate this rule, and Apple spokespeople have been mum on how the company interprets or enforces this policy.
The lawsuit claims that the transmission of personal data is a violation of federal computer fraud and privacy laws. It seeks class-action status for all Apple customers who downloaded an application between Dec. 1, 2008 and last week.
But as Bloomberg notes, it may be hard to prove that Apple has violated any laws given the terms of service we all agree to (but never read.) "Still," writes Bloomberg, "it's another sign that concerns about monitoring consumers' behavior via their electronic devices is not about to go away anytime soon, as regulators and Congress prepare to take an even closer look at the issue in the new year."