Apple sued for privacy a second time after Gizmodo story

Apple sued for privacy a second time after Gizmodo story

A photo from an iPhone.

Photo: Silas Stein/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images (AP)

The iPhone Analytics privacy setting promises Apple won’t collect any usage data if you turn it off. In early November, Gizmodo exclusively reported on research showing that Apple collects this analytics data regardless of whether the setting is enabled or not. We reached out to Apple, but the company didn’t respond.

We contacted Apple again when a California iPhone user filed a class action lawsuit over the issue, and again when additional testing confirmed the data contained personally identifiable information — contrary to another Apple policy. Apple didn’t respond.

On Friday, another iPhone user filed a second class action lawsuit against Apple over the analytics privacy issue, this time in Pennsylvania. At press time, Apple has not responded to a request for comment.

It’s been months and Apple hasn’t addressed what looks like a direct contradiction to its privacy policy, let alone a year-long PR campaign about the company’s privacy commitments, complete with catchy promises like “Privacy. This is the iPhone.” and “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.”

Apple’s practices constitute “systematic violations of state wiretapping, privacy and consumer fraud laws,” the new lawsuit says. “Quite simply, Apple unlawfully records and uses consumers’ personal information and activities on its consumer mobile devices and applications (‘apps’), even after consumers have expressly indicated through Apple’s mobile device settings that they do not want that their data and information will be shared.”

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The iPhone Analytics privacy setting states that if you disable it, Device Analytics sharing will be completely disabled. Apple’s Analytics privacy policy goes on to say that “none of the information collected personally identifies you”. But when researchers at software development company Mysk checked these claims, they found that neither was true.

Mysk’s tests showed that disabling the setting had no effect on analytics data sent from Apple apps. This data contains detailed, real-time information about everything you do in specific apps, not just things you type or tap, but even how long you spend on specific pages and what ads you see. A prime example is the App Store, where searches and downloads for specific apps can reveal everything from users’ sexual orientation to religion to sensitive issues like addiction and substance abuse.

Despite Apple’s claims that the information is non-identifiable, this data is associated with a permanent ID number Tied to iCloud accounts, linking the data to your name, email address, and phone number.

The company faces growing scrutiny over the collection of personal information. Last week, Apple was fined $8.5 million in France for collecting data for targeted advertising without asking users’ consent. It’s unusual for privacy regulators to thing Apple, and in fairness, its privacy practices often protect users better than many tech competitors. But that could change in the near future as Apple ramps up a burgeoning advertising business, a business that requires data collection.