Apple may promote itself as a privacy-focused company, but a new lawsuit alleges that it sells off personal data regarding iTunes purchases.
The lawsuit was brought by three iTunes customers from Rhode Island and Michigan to federal court in San Fransisco on Friday, according to Bloomberg. The three customers are filing on behalf of all the iTunes customers whose information could have been sold or shared without their consent.
The sharing of data in question was Apple allowing other companies and third-party app developers to gain direct access to information about what tracks users have in their iTunes library.
Although on its surface it may seem unimportant, iTunes data can be quite revealing. This issue is not only data about what people are listening to, but also more personal information regarding purchases and demographic information. This could be used to target vulnerable members of society such as older people, the lawsuit argues.
“For example, any person or entity could rent a list with the names and addresses of all unmarried, college-educated women over the age of 70 with a household income of over $80,000 who purchased country music from Apple via its iTunes Store mobile application,” the lawsuit said. “Such a list is available for sale for approximately $136 per thousand customers listed.”
The lawsuit is related to the billboard that Apple put up in Las Vegas around CES 2019, which said “What happens on your iPhone, stay on your iPhone.” The lawsuit argues that this statement is “plainly untrue” because “none of the information pertaining to the music you purchase on your iPhone stays on your iPhone,” according to Apple Insider.
The complainants in the suit, Leigh Wheaton, Jill Paul, and Trevor Paul, are seeking $250 for each iTunes customer from Rhode Island whose data was disclosed, plus $5,000 for each one in Michigan. The lawsuit is a class action, so it is brought by a small number of people on behalf of a large class of people (in this case, iTunes customers). But it does not currently establish how many potential users could be involved. The filing says the “aggregate amount in controversy exceeds $5,000,000.”
Apple has not yet commented on the lawsuit.
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