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Lawsuits Say Unique Apple iPhone and iPad IDs Let Advertisers Profile & Track Users Via Apps

Posted Dec 28, 2010 6:16 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Updated: By giving each iPhone and iPad a so-called Unique Device Identifier or UDID, Apple Inc. has made it possible for advertisers secretly to track which applications individuals download and how frequently they use them, in violation of federal and state computer, consumer and privacy law, two federal lawsuits contend.

“Some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users’ location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views,” says one suit. Filed last week in federal district court in San Jose, Calif. by Jonathan Lalo of Los Angeles County, it seeks class action status, reports Bloomberg.

In addition to allowing advertisers to profile users, another suit says, the UDIDs also allow users to be tracked via their electronic devices, reports the Epicenter blog of Wired, which links to a copy of the complaint.

The litigation names as defendants not only Apple but the makers of Dictionary.com, Pandora, Pimple Popper Lite, Talking Tom Cat, Text4Plus, Toss It and The Weather Channel applications. It seeks monetary damages and a court order prohibiting continued dissemination of users' private information. Unlike cookies, the UDID reportedly can't be blocked by the user of the device.

“Apple knew this was an issue,” says attorney Majed Nachawati, who represents the plaintiffs along with Scott Kamber and Avi Kreitenberg of KamberLaw in New York. “They had a duty to warn consumers and at a minimum, if they intend to profit from this, they need to let people know and get their consent.”

An Apple spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a Bloomberg request for comment.

The litigation credits the Wall Street Journal for bringing the situation to light.

An Above the Law post provides additional details.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Legal or Not, ‘Scrapers’ Compile Data on What People Say Online"

ABAJournal.com: "Google Admits Street View Cars Snagged E-Mail & Passwords, Is Sued re Saved Search Queries"

ABAJournal.com: "Commerce Dept. Panel’s Report Calls For Internet ‘Privacy Bill of Rights’ and New Oversight Office"

Updated at 1:30 p.m. to clarify that two similar suits have been filed.

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