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Class-Action Lawsuit Accuses Apple of 'Intentionally and Unlawfully' Sharing iTunes Listening Data


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A new class-action lawsuit claims that Apple is “intentionally and unlawfully” disclosing its customers’ iTunes listening data to third parties in violation of state privacy laws.


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The lawsuit from three individuals from two states, Rhode Island and Michigan, was filed Friday in a California district court, Bloomberg reported Friday. According to the lawsuit, which was published by AppleInsider,


the company’s “disclosures of the Personal Listening Information of Plaintiffs and the other unnamed Class members were not only unlawful, they were also dangerous because such disclosures allow for the targeting of particularly vulnerable members of society.”


The suit alleges that Apple has or is sharing data with third parties who can “supplement that information with additional sensitive personal information” that the company discloses about its customers. Many of these third parties, the suit claims, “have in turn re-disclosed plaintiffs’ and other unnamed class members’ personal listening information to other third parties for further exploitation and monetization—all without providing prior notice to or obtaining the requisite consent from anyone.”


As apparent proof of the allegation, the suit points to marketing entities who sell this information.


“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 suit states. “Such a list is available for sale for approximately $136 per thousand customers listed.”


Sharing data about consumers’ listening habits can reveal intimate information about them, the lawsuit claims, and can put them at risk of predatory behavior from “fraudulent telemarketers” and others looking to take advantage of vulnerable groups. The suit names at least two marketing entities that allegedly sell such lists.


In addition, the lawsuit claims that Apple, without first obtaining permission from its customers, shared detailed user listening data via its developers tools. Issues with the way user listening data was being shared with developers in the past were raised by Ben Dodson on his blog in January of 2016 as well as in a bug report to the company. The suit claims that despite contacting Dodson informing him that the company was aware of the issue, Apple did not resolve it until roughly eight months later with the release of iOS 10.


The class action lawsuit is being brought by the plaintiffs on behalf of other Apple customers in their respective states who “had their personal listening information disclosed to third parties by Apple without their consent.” The suit is seeking $250 each for those Apple customers in Rhode Island and $5,000 each for those in Michigan.


Apple did not immediately return a request for comment.



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