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Apple sued over iTunes data sharing

By | Published on Tuesday 28 May 2019


Three iTunes users in the US have sued Apple over allegations it has broken privacy and data protection laws by sharing data relating to purchases on the download store with third parties. Leigh Wheaton, Jill Paul and Trevor Paul are seeking class action status for their litigation, which would allow other iTunes customers to seek damages if the lawsuit was successful in court.

The legal claim alleges that Apple sells, rents and transmits to third parties information about iTunes customers and the purchases they have made. This, the plaintiffs argue, conflicts with the tech giant’s marketing communications around data privacy, which included a billboard in Las Vegas featuring the slogan “what happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone”.

The lawsuit then states: “The data Apple discloses includes the full names and home addresses of its customers, together with the genres and, in some cases, the specific titles of digitally-recorded music that its customers have purchased via the iTunes Store and then stored in their devices”.

“Apple profits handsomely from its unauthorised sale, rental [and] transmission” of this data, the legal papers go on. “It does so at the expense of its customers’ privacy and statutory rights because Apple does not notify let alone obtain the requisite written consent from its customers prior to disclosing their personal information”.

In its privacy policy, Apple confirms that it collects ‘non-personal information’ about iTunes users and that the company reserves the right to use, transfer or disclose that data. However, at least some of the information the lawsuit claims is being collected and shared would not be classified as ‘non-personal’.

Although the lawsuit was filed with the federal court in San Francisco, what damages would be available to class members if the litigation was successful would depend on where they live and what local state law says about privacy and data protection. The three named plaintiffs are from Rhode Island and Michigan. State laws in the former would provide damages of up to $250 per user, while in the latter they could be as high as $5000 per user.