Apple Sued Over the Sale of Customer Information

Technology giant Apple has come under a class-action lawsuit after being accused of selling iTunes customers’ personal information to third parties. The plaintiffs, Leigh Wheaton, Jill Paul, and Trevor Paul are seeking around 5 million USD in damages. They claimed the information that Apple mined was in violation of the privacy laws of their respective states, in rather ironic contrast to Apple’s claims pro-customer business practices and a recently erected billboard in Las Vegas reading “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.” The plaintiffs also claim that this is in an attempt to supplement Apple’s already huge revenues from iTunes.

Among the information being passed about is the customer’s full name, address, preferred musical genres, and in some cases, even specific song titles that they’d downloaded. This info then found its way to list brokers, data aggregators and cooperatives, and app developers, some of which put their products on Apple’s own App Store.

While there are obviously no published figures on the sale of this information, one can only wonder how much money this brings in that such an already well-off business like Apple finds it worth the risk to engage in these shady practices.

Apple profits handsomely from its unauthorized sale, rental, transmission (of customers’ personal listening information) …  It does so at the expense of its customers’ privacy and statutory rights because Apple does not notify let alone obtain the requisite written consent from its customers prior to disclosing their personal information.”

— Plaintiffs

While Apple does reserve the right to collect any information “that does not, on its own, permit direct association with any specific individual,” their privacy page does state that they collect customer activity on a number of Apple’s services. What defines “personal information” and “non-personal information” may very well be the factor that decides the outcome of this case.