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Court Rules Consumers May Sue Apple Inc over Mobile Tracking
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On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, dismissed Google and others, but held that there was sufficient cause of action to allow owners of iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches to pursue claims against Apple under two California consumer protection laws. It’s going to cost Apple Inc for allowing advertisers secretly track the activities of millions of consumers of Apple devices. Judge Lucy Koh oversees nationwide litigation combining 19 lawsuits in the matter of user tracking without permission. However, the judge dismissed claims that Apple violated the privacy rights of customers and also dismissed claims of computer fraud, wiretaps and records disclosure. The court held that consumers may sue Apple for causing them to overpay for their devices.

The lawsuit was the result of an April 2011 presentation in which two computer programmers showed how the movements of iPhone users were being monitored through the devices they owned. There was a nationwide outrage over the matter and Apple promised to make changes demanded by regulators.

The lawsuit alleged that Apple had designed its devices to allow mobile analytics and advertising companies collect personal data when free apps were downloaded to Apple devices. The lawsuit claimed that this was done without user permission and was not in line with Apple’s proclamations in writing that it would take steps to prevent personal information from being abused. The lawsuit showed that data collected without user permission included addresses, genders, ages, identifiers assigned to devices, and user habits of using particular apps.

  
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The court held that actions against Apple were permissible based on the company’s statements on privacy protection, and the consumption of finite bandwidth and storage space of users. Apple maintains that its user terms and conditions shields it from any liability, but the judge held that “ambiguity” remained as to whether all of the data that was collected was permissible.

Koh had dismissed a similar case by the plaintiffs earlier but gave them a chance to reformulate and file their case again. The amended complaint gained a little success for consumers. But Koh also maintained that Apple’s behavior was not any “egregious breach of social norms” but “routine commercial behavior.”

The case is In re: iPhone Application Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 11-02250

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