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Apple sued over privacy in iPhone, iPad apps

Lawsuit alleges that mobile apps on the iPhone and iPad are sending personal data to ad networks without the knowledge or approval of customers.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Apple is being sued for allegedly letting mobile apps on the iPhone and iPad send personal information to ad networks without the consent of users.

Jonathan Lalo, who filed the lawsuit on Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., alleges that Apple's iPhones and iPads let ad networks track which applications people download, how often they're used, and for how long, according to a Bloomberg article published today.

Specifically, the suit alleges that the ad networks are able to trace an iPhone or iPad using the unique device identifier, or UDID, which is a number specific to each unit that can't be blocked by users. Claiming that sending personal data without consent violates federal computer fraud and privacy laws, the suit is seeking class action status on behalf of all Apple iPhone and iPad users who downloaded an app between December 1, 2008, and last week, according to Bloomberg.

Privacy concerns over mobile data have heated up lately. Last week, a Wall Street Journal article asserted that mobile apps send certain information without the user's consent or knowledge. That article helped light a fire under the Mobile Marketing Association, an industry group that is now calling for new, more transparent privacy guidelines to tell consumers what information gets sent to advertisers and how it's used.

Along with Apple, the lawsuit names as defendants certain mobile apps, such as Pandora, Paper Toss, Weather Channel, and Dictionary.com, Bloomberg reported.

The Journal article had specifically mentioned Pandora, which it found was sending age, gender, and other personal information to ad networks, and Paper Toss, which the paper asserted was transmitting UDIDs.

An Apple representative told CNET today that the company declines to comment on the suit.