Keeping our information confidential has been an issue for as long as I can remember. In the past the concern was mostly based on how we surfed the internet on our desktop and notebook computers. The Federal Trade Commission is even considering implementing a “Don Not Track” law to stop online information gathers from acquiring our personal information. Now, with the proliferation of smartphones and applications that do everything except the laundry, consumers have another form of privacy to worry about: Apps gathering information without your knowledge.
Apple has been accused of letting applications on their iOS devices transmit personal information to advertisers without user consent, which has led to two lawsuits. The first suit was filed by Jonathan Lalo on Dec. 23 in federal court in San Jose, California. Lalo is looking for class action status for his complaint and the court papers claim that app transmissions violated federal computer fraud and privacy laws.
Apple’s iOS devices are equipped with a 40 digit string of letters and numbers called a Unique Device Identifier (UDID) which distinguishes one device from another and can’t be altered by the user. The lawsuit claims that these UDIDs are used to let advertisers track what apps users download, how long they use the application and how often it is used.
In addition, Bloomberg has reported the suit also claims that “some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users’ location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views.”
Lalo specifically names applications like Pandora, Paper Toss, the Weather Channel and Dictionary.com as co-defendants alongside Apple.
This UDID seems to be causing a pretty big ruckus as a second lawsuit filed by Dustin Freeman and three other unnamed plaintiffs have hit the court system. The court documents claim Apple has an “intrusive tracking scheme” by pointing out Apple rejects 20 percent of apps that try to enter their store and Freeman feels Apple should have done a better job at keeping apps that track personal information from being distributed.
In October, Apple released a document outlining guidelines for their app store and is explicit about applications not transmitting personal information. Specifically the document says “Apps cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining the user’s prior permission and providing the user with access to information about how and where the data will be used.”
If you think this is isolated to Apple think again, Freeman’s lawyers said in a statement to Reuters, they are “…also looking at Google’s Android platform and a lawsuit against them has not been ruled out”
It will be very interesting to see how this UDID tracking lawsuit shakes out, not only for Apple for for all device manufactures as well as developers.
Are you concerned about developers acquiring your personal information via the applications you use? Would you consider this privacy violation to be on the same level as tracking your surfing habits? Let me know what you think in the comments below.