Apple sued over mobile app activity tracking

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Apple in California after a report last week alleged that the company collects iPhone user data through its apps, regardless of whether the iPhone Analytics privacy option is enabled.

Apple is accused of violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act.

In the complaint, Elliot Libman alleges that Apple falsely claimed to customers that they had complete control over the data they shared while using Apple’s mobile apps.

“Privacy is one of the main themes Apple uses to differentiate its products from the competition. But Apple’s privacy guarantees are completely fallacious,” the lawsuit states.

gizmodo last week reported the results of a new study that paints a very different picture regarding Apple’s claims that it’s a better privacy option for smartphone users.

Privacy controls have no visible impact on data collection

Two iOS developers from software company Mysk, Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry, conducted the investigation.

The researchers said they used a jailbroken iPhone running iOS 14.6 to decode and examine network traffic between the device and its maker.

They examined several iPhone apps, including the App Store, Apple TV, Apple Music, Stocks, and Books, and found that analytics control and other privacy settings had no visible impact on Apple’s ability to collect data.

There was no change in tracking with or without iPhone Analytics enabled.

Researchers verified their work using a standard iPhone running iOS 16, the latest operating system.

“The level of detail is shocking for a company like Apple,” Mysk said gizmodo.

The App Store seemed to track data on almost everything users do in real-time, including what they clicked, what apps they searched for, what ads they saw, how long they watched a particular app, and how they found it to have.

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The App Store also sent details about users’ devices, including their ID numbers, screen resolutions, Internet connection types, keyboard languages, and — specifically — the type of information commonly used for device fingerprinting.

Other apps that provided data on user activity were Apple Music, Apple TV, the iTunes Store, Books, and Stocks.

The Stocks app shared data, including a list of the user’s watched stocks, any articles they read on the app, and the names of any stocks they searched for. In addition, the app shared timestamps for which a user accessed stock information.

This information can be sensitive, especially given how easy it is to discover details about a person’s life simply by searching for applications on topics such as religion, LGBTQ issues, addiction, and health.

Pervasive and unlawful

“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.

The complaint does not put significant emphasis on the fact that Apple collects this data. Rather, it focuses on Apple settings like “Allow apps to request tracking” and “Share Analytics,” which give users the impression that they could opt out of such tracking.

The new lawsuit has been described as a class action lawsuit, allowing any iPhone user with a similar claim against the defendant to join the lawsuit.

The class members will participate in any settlement or financial judgment entered by the court against Apple after the attorneys receive their large share of the lawsuit.

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