NEWS6 January 2011

Apple and app developers sued over device data sharing

Legal North America

US— Apple and a host of app developers are being sued by iPhone and iPad users who allege that information about their devices and their locations was shared with advertisers without their permission.

Plaintiffs accuse developers of apps including Paper Toss, and Pandora of accessing and transmitting unique device ID (UDID) codes (which are assigned by Apple during the manufacturing of devices) as well as information about device locations to third-party ad networks, which place banner ads within the apps.

The lawsuit points to a research paper by Bucknell University’s Eric Smith, who observed exchanges of UDIDs between apps and third-party servers.

The most recent version of the company’s developer rules allow user and device data to be collected “to provide a service or function that is directly relevant to the use of the application, or to serve advertising” but not without obtaining prior user consent.

Plaintiffs claim that the developers named in the lawsuit did not obtain consent to share UDID or location data, nor did they “adequately inform” users about these practices.

They also point out – as Smith did in his paper – that Apple “does not provide users [with] any way to delete or restrict access to their devices’ UDIDs”. Meanwhile, it is alleged that none of the aforementioned apps offer location-based services to “justify access to plaintiffs’ location data”.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and an injunction to prevent similar data sharing practices.