Apple Is Facing Third Lawsuit Over Dubious Data Collection Practices

iPhones collect your data even when you ask them not to, and some folks aren’t taking it lightly

Apple’s privacy policy states that it respects your ability to know, access, correct, transmit, limit, process and delete your personal data, but does it really?

An iPhone ad promoting Apple's privacy protections.
Not! After a slew of alleged privacy violations, Apple may need to rethink its advertising campaign.

Not according to the latest findings from iOS developers and security researchers, Mysk. So shocking were the German firm’s discoveries that they’ve set off a barrage of class action lawsuits against Apple over user privacy.

Mysk Supplies the Ammo

Mysk’s research claims detailed usage data is sent to Apple from its proprietary apps and services such as the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, and Stocks. This includes real-time logs about your device, search terms you’ve entered, and every piece of content or app you view. 

Most damningly, the team found “turning off the setting had no effect on analytics data sent from Apple apps”.

Adding insult to injury, the research revealed Apple somewhat sneakily assigns a unique identifier to your iCloud account to track your moves across its ecosystem. As your iCloud account is linked to your name, email address and phone number, this is a blatant contravention of its privacy policy which states “none of the collected information identifies you personally”. 

What Apple does with that data is uncertain. In any case, having such a vast trove of data able to reveal sensitive details about you, such as your sexual orientation, religion, political leaning, or even health issues, has privacy pundits on high alert. Even regular users are revolting, with lawsuits landing one after the other on the big chief’s desk in Cupertino.

Apple Called Out in California

In the first suit, filed in November last year, California plaintiff Elliot Libman alleges Apple willfully violates user privacy and monetizes user data without permission.

The plaintiff seems to take particular issue with the fact that disabling “Allow Apps to Request to Track” and “Share Analytics” seems to take no effect! Indeed.

Apple’s practices infringe upon consumers’ privacy; intentionally deceive consumers; give Apple and its employees power to learn intimate details about individuals’ lives, interests, and app usage; and make Apple a potential target for “one-stop shopping” by any government, private, or criminal actor who wants to undermine individuals’ privacy, security, or freedom.”

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.”

The suit seeks “restitution and all other forms of equitable monetary relief,” and “injunctive relief as the court may see proper.” 

Penn State is Mightier than the iPhone 

A second lawsuit was filed on 6 Jan by Pennsylvania plaintiff, Joaquin Serrano. Suing on behalf “of himself and all others similarly situated”, Serrano claims “Apple continues to collect and share data from its users, despite analytics privacy settings that purport to allow you to disable sharing device analytics and information that could identify you individually”.

The lawsuit has Apple down for wiretapping and electronic surveillance act violations, Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law violations, an invasion of privacy, a breach of an implied contract, and “unjust enrichment.”

The Pennsylvania plaintiff is hoping to collect damages exceeding $5 million.

Your Apple Watch is Watching You

The third class-action lawsuit, filed in December last year by one Alex Morales in New York, takes a slightly different approach, claiming to be over a racial bias on Apple Watch’s health feature. The suit is again claiming Apple is collecting sensitive information such as race, sexual orientation and religion, in violation of users’ privacy rights.

Apple has yet to comment on any of the lawsuits filed despite repeated requests from the media. Apple closes its ears to these cries of discontent at its own peril. No matter how big your billboards are, you can’t plaster over reality forever. 

CyberGhost. Now That’s Privacy!

We’ll have to wait and see if these class action suits go anywhere, and if Apple will remember its promises to put your privacy first. 

In the meantime, you can take steps to protect your data and reclaim your privacy. If you want to get all the data Apple has on you, you could try the company’s download tool. You should also ensure you’ve opted out of data collection (for what it’s worth) on all your devices.

Finally, always make use of a reliable VPN for iPhone like CyberGhost. It won’t be able to protect you from back doors that are built into devices or from services you log into, but it will bolster your online privacy in every other situation.

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