Apple, app developers facing a lawsuit over iPhone privacy breach

Apple and several app makers are named as defendants in a class action lawsuit alleging that certain iPhone and iPad apps unlawfully collected and transmitted user data.

The suit, filed on December 23 in a federal court in California, targets several apps including the popular music streaming app Pandora along with Paper Toss,, the Weather Channel, Talking Tom Cat, Toss It, and Text4Plus. The apps are said to have gathered personal information about users and then to have transmitted that information to advertisers without consent from users — a violation of federal privacy laws.

“Some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users’ location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views,” alleges the suit.

The data collection was made possible through a unique device identifier (UDID) found on iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches. The UDID makes it possible to track individual device activity and is not able to be turned off by users. The suit contends that certain app makers and advertisers have exploited UDID to gather personal data and use it to tailor ads to the very users whose data was compromised. Because Apple takes it upon itself to approve every app in its App Store, the suit alleges that the company “aided and abetted” app makers in the privacy breach.

“Apple knew this was an issue,” said Majed Nachawati, a lawyer involved in filing the suit, in a Wired article. “They had a duty to warn consumers and at a minimum, if they intend to profit from this, they need to let people know and get their consent.”

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal published an investigative report that found that dozens of apps transmitted data from the iOS devices of unsuspecting users. Several of the apps cited for privacy breaches in the report now appear as defendants in the lawsuit filed last week.

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