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Wiretap lawsuit accuses Apple of tracking iPhone users who opted out

This is the company that claims: 'Privacy. That's iPhone'

Apple "unlawfully records and uses consumers' personal information and activity," claims a new lawsuit accusing the company of tracking iPhone users' device data even when they've asked for tracking to be switched off.

The would-be class action lawsuit, filed in Pennsylvania, accuses [PDF] Apple of violating Pennsylvania's Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act, as well as breaching its trade practices and consumer protection law by "representing that its mobile devices enable users to choose settings that would stop defendant from collecting or tracking their private data — a feature they do not have."

The complaint also accuses the iPhone giant of invasion of privacy, and claims it breached its implied contract with users "by continuing to track consumers who turned off these settings."

The suit additionally alleges Apple is able to track user activity across its various apps because the data analytics it collects share user ID numbers. It also cites a situation where a user's private information is shared, claiming the Apple Stocks app, for example, "shares a user's private information relating to a user's investment activities or preferences. It shares with Apple which stock the user is following or viewing. Apple even collects time-stamps on when the user is viewing certain stocks and engaging with the Stocks app." The complaint continues: "In addition, Apple collects the news articles that users see within their mobile device."

The lawsuit, filed by Penn State plaintiff Joaquin Serrano late last week with the ultimate aim of being certified as a class action, also highlights Apple's recently launched worldwide ad campaign where billboards feature the iPhone along with the slogan: "Privacy. That's iPhone."

The filing continues: "'What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone,' announced one billboard in Las Vegas. 'Your iPhone knows a lot about you. But we don't,' announced another in New York."

The suit's claims cite work done by two independent app developers at software company Mysk, co-founded by Germany-based iOS dev and "occasional security researcher" Tommy Mysk, in November last year. According to the suit, the pair's test "revealed that even when consumers actively change their 'privacy settings' and take Apple's instructions to protect their privacy, Apple still records, tracks, collects, and monetizes consumers' analytics data, including browsing history and activity information."

The makers of collaborative drawing app Canvas tweeted last night: "Here we go, Apple is facing another lawsuit for collecting exhaustive analytics on the App Store, the only place to download and install apps on the iPhone."

Another lawsuit relating to Mysk's research over Apple's data collection practices was filed in California federal court in November last year, with that case alleging the company was violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act.

We've asked Apple, which was served with the lawsuit yesterday, for comment. ®

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