Apple Tracks Certain App Activity Data Even After Consumers Disable Tracking Tools, Class Action Alleges
Last Updated on February 13, 2023
Farley v. Apple, Inc.
Filed: January 13, 2023 ◆§ 2:23-cv-00254
A class action alleges Apple continues to record consumers’ app activity after they have disabled tracking tools in their device privacy settings.
A proposed class action alleges Apple continues to record consumers’ app activity after they have disabled “Allow Apps to Request to Track,” “Share iPad Analytics,” or “Share iPhone Analytics” in their device privacy settings.
The 21-page lawsuit claims that although Apple assures consumers they can restrict data sharing on their devices, their interactions with Apple-owned apps, including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV, Books and Stocks, are tracked, recorded and monetized regardless of any privacy safeguards they employ.
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However, developers at the software company Mysk found that whether analytic controls are switched on or off, Apple’s data collection process remains the same, the filing states. The case explains that tech publication Gizmodo first publicized these findings in November 2022, but Apple, as of the date the lawsuit was filed, has yet to comment on the issue.
The complaint contends, specifically, that the Apple App store tracks how a user initially found an app, which apps they have clicked on, their search history, how long they looked at an app and which advertisements they were shown.
“Not only does the App Store send to Apple this individualized information about users’ activities, it also shares the types of device used, and even data regarding screen resolution and keyboard settings,” the suit adds. “Apple is also able to track user activity across its various apps, as the data analytics it collects share user ID numbers.”
For example, Apple Stocks collects and sends information about users’ investment activities and which stock they view or follow, as well as time stamps that indicate when users engage with the app, the case alleges. The filing also claims that Apple notes which news articles consumers view on their devices.
Per the suit, Apple has attempted to appeal to the vast majority of consumers who prefer not to have their online activities tracked by “playing up its commitment to privacy.” For instance, Apple stated in an April 2021 white paper that it “believes that privacy is a fundamental human right” and wants users to know “what data is shared and how it issued, and that they can exercise control over it,” the case explains. Apple has also run countless privacy-first advertising campaigns, including 40-foot billboards erected worldwide that touted the slogan, “Privacy. That’s iPhone,” the suit says.
These misrepresentations give consumers the false impression that their requests for privacy would be honored, when in reality Apple “misappropriates users’ information to make its advertising algorithms more effective, which, in turn, generates Apple more revenue from advertisers,” the complaint claims.
The lawsuit looks to cover anyone who, while using an Apple mobile device in New York, had their information tracked or used by Apple after turning off “Allow Apps to Request to Track,” “Share iPad Analytics,” “Share iPhone Analytics” and/or any other similar setting on an Apple mobile device that purported to stop the company from collecting mobile app activity.
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