Apple will stand trial over accusations that it misled iPhone owners by storing detailed information about their location even when location was switched off, a judge ruled yesterday.
Apple had asked for the class action location-tracking case against it to be dismissed, but Judge Lucy Koh of the San Jose District Court in California said yesterday that the iPhone-maker should defend its position in court.
However Judge Koh discounted six of the complainants' eight claims against Apple including the claim that it had infringed US privacy and wiretap laws.
Koh dismissed the privacy claim against Apple because the plaintiffs had failed to prove that the data collection and storage caused them any personal injury.
But Apple will be tried on two counts: for violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and for violations of the Unfair Competition Law.
The Consumer Legal Remedies Act prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” and the contrast between Apple's promise to protect user data in its App Store and its alleged practice of giving user data to third-party apps without warning, merited a court case, the judge said.
Unfair Competition law guards against companies mis-selling products and in this case, the claim hinges on the fact that switching off location services on the iPhone did not result in said services actually switching off. This was seen as a potential mis-selling of the device – installing an "off switch" that did not work.
Apple's claim that the benefits of this outweighed the harm to the consumer would have to be tested in court, Koh concluded.
iPhone users brought the case as a class action suit in 2011 after two privacy researchers discovered a file on the iPhone that stored its user's movements in detail for periods of years. The location files were linked to the Unique Device Identifier, age, gender, name and credit card details of the phone's user.
Third-party apps were able to make use of the data.
Apple said the storage of the data was a bug and issued a fix.
Claims against Apple's third-party app partners were also dismissed. ®
'iPhone litigation' San Jose District Court in California Case No: 11-MD-02250-LHK