NEWS23 September 2011

iPhone app data sharing complaint dismissed

Legal North America

US— A lawsuit accusing Apple and iPhone app developers of collecting and sharing personal information with advertisers without users’ permission has been dismissed by a California District Court judge.

Judge Lucy Koh sided with the defendants who argued that the iPhone and iPad users bringing the case had failed to establish “an actual injury or harm for the allegedly unauthorised collection or tracking of their personal information”.

A complaint was first filed in January, accusing the developers 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 pointed to a research paper by Bucknell University’s Eric Smith, who observed exchanges of UDIDs between apps and third-party servers.

Plaintiffs claimed 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 pointed 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”. (Separately, Apple has since announced that it will no longer allow developers access to UDIDs).

Judge Koh has granted plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint but it must be re-filed within 60 days.