Apple Discloses iTunes Store App Customers’ Personal Information Without Consent, According to Class Action Suit [UPDATE]
Last Updated on February 28, 2020
Wheaton et al. v. Apple Inc.
Filed: May 24, 2019 ◆§ 5:19-cv-02883
Apple faces a class action that alleges it sells or otherwise discloses the music listening data of iTunes Store app users without authorization.
Rhode Island Video, Audio and Publication Rentals Privacy Act Michigan Preservation of Privacy Act
Update – Lawsuit Dismissed Due to Pleading Failures
The proposed class action detailed on this page has been dismissed. United States District Judge William Alsup found, among other issues, that the plaintiffs failed to provide enough evidence to plausibly show that Apple disclosed iTunes users’ identities in connection with their music listening choices to third-party brokers.
In particular, Judge Alsup ruled the plaintiffs failed to adequately show Apple violated the Rhode Island Video, Audio, and Publication Rentals Privacy Act and Michigan Preservation of Personal Privacy Act. Under the Rhode Island law, court papers state, a company would be liable for harm in the event a consumer’s listening choices identified their name and address in connection with a particular title of content. Similarly, the Michigan privacy law stipulates a violation as a disclosure of material that can personally identify a consumer.
Judge Alsup stressed that the exhibits on which the plaintiffs’ suit leaned failed to plausibly show Apple disclosed personally identifiable user information.
“None of it plausibly shows that Apple disclosed plaintiffs’ personal listening information,” Judge Alsup wrote, adding that the complaint failed to prove Apple used metadata, tokens and gifting to share iTunes users’ identities, as the plaintiffs alleged.
Consumers from Rhode Island and Michigan allege in a proposed class action that despite Apple’s promises with regard to protecting iPhone users’ data, the Cupertino company “sells, rents, transmits and/or otherwise discloses” information pertaining to music purchases made from the iTunes Store application that comes preloaded onto iPhones.
The 51-page case alleges Apple discloses to third parties the full names and home addresses of iTunes customers, along with specific music genres and titles of songs bought in the iTunes Store and then stored in an iPhone’s music library. Third parties who obtain this information are then able to append it to a number of other branches of personally identifiable information, such as gender, age, household income, and educational history, which can then be re-sold to other data aggregators, appenders, cooperatives and list brokers, the suit claims.
More concerning, the case alleges Apple has sold or otherwise disclosed iTunes users' personal listening information to app developers, many of whom the plaintiffs say have, in turn, further disclosed proposed class members' details to still more third parties.
Apple, according to the suit, has disclosed the personal listening information of proposed class members and millions of other iTunes Store customers “without providing prior notice to or obtaining the requisite consent from anyone.” Citing Rhode Island’s Video, Audio and Publication Rentals Privacy Act and Michigan’s Preservation of Personal Privacy Act, the lawsuit says proposed class members have received a “barrage of unwanted junk mail” to their homes and email addresses as a result of Apple’s alleged iTunes data sharing.
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