Apple Sued Over iPhone Privacy Settings After Gizmodo Story

An iPhone on a table

photo: LOIC VENANCE / Contributor (Getty Images)

Apple is facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly collecting iPhone user data, despite the company’s own privacy settings promising it. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in California federal court, comes days later Gizmodo reports exclusively when examining how multiple iPhone apps send Apple Analytics data, regardless of whether iPhone Analytics privacy settings are enabled or disabled.

The problem was spotted by two independent researchers at software company Mysk, who found that the Apple App Store sends the company extensive information about almost everything a user does in the app, despite a privacy setting, iPhone Analytics, which claims “to disable general device analytics sharing” if it is turned off. Gizmodo asked the researchers to run additional tests using other iPhone apps, including Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, and Stocks. The researchers found that the problem persists in most Apple suites of built-in iPhone apps.

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,” plaintiff Elliot Libman said in the lawsuit, which can be read further Bloomberg law. “But Apple’s privacy guarantees are completely delusional.” The company has billboards across the country with the slogan “Privacy. That’s the iPhone.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As seen in a video posted to Mysk’s YouTube channel, the App Store appears to be collecting real-time information about your activity, including what you tap, what apps you search, what ads you see, how You found a specific app and how long you looked at the app’s page.

Apple’s privacy settings specifically promise to turn off this type of tracking. But in testing, disabling the iPhone Analytics setting had no apparent impact on data collection, nor did the iPhone’s other built-in settings designed to protect your privacy from Apple’s data collection.

Mysk’s tests on the App Store revealed that Apple receives this 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 type of information commonly used for device fingerprinting.

The App Store on your iPhone watches your every move

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

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

This data can be sensitive, especially considering that simply searching for apps on topics such as religion, LGBTQ issues, health, and addiction can reveal details about a person’s life.

“Through its pervasive and unlawful data tracking and collection business, Apple is aware of even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing aspects of a user’s app usage — regardless of whether the user accepts Apple’s illusory offer to keep such activity private,” the statement said Legal action.

Apple faces increased scrutiny for its privacy practices as the company expands into digital advertising. Apple recently new ads introduced in the App Store, is reportedly planning Advertising on Apple TVand seems focused poaching Small business advertisers from Meta, Facebook’s parent company. While Apple’s corporate literature is vocal in declaring that “privacy is a human right,” it remains to be seen how much the iPhone maker is willing to compromise that right as it develops new data-driven business ventures.