Apple faces lawsuit for disclosing iTunes users' listening data

It is reported that Apple is being sued by three iTunes users for allegedly disclosing their listening habits to advertisers.

The users, from Michigan and Rhode Island, claimed Apple broke data protection laws by selling information about people’s iTunes purchases as well as their personal data, despite the company's promise of “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.”

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status alongside other state residents, claiming that Apple has “disregarded its legal responsibilities to these individuals” by revealing people's personal information without consent.

The disclosure of iTunes customers’ personal data isn’t only unlawful but can also be dangerous because it allows for targeting vulnerable members of society, according to the complaint.

For example, any person or entity could rent a list with the names and addresses of all unmarried, college-educated women over the age of 70 with a household income of over $80,000 who purchased country music from Apple via its iTunes Store mobile application," the customers said. "Such a list is available for sale for approximately $136 per thousand customers listed.

The claimants are seeking $250 for each Rhode Island iTunes customer whose information was disclosed and $5,000 for each one in Michigan, under the states’ respective privacy laws.

Is Apple in alliance with data brokers?

According to the lawsuit Apple has possibly been selling personal information to data brokers. Allegedly this has been going on for several years. It is unclear how the plaintiffs discovered the information leak. however, the ramifications for Apple could be far-reaching.

iTunes’ Terms and Conditions specifically state that developers are not permitted to access or share any personal information without the user’s explicit consent.

In this case, the developers used the existing framework to extract information regarding the users’ audio content and audio playback. Apparently, iTunes should immediately receive a message flagging up the data gathering process.

According to the lawsuit, in 2017 users were allegedly denied access to the app’s permission function. This means that, by default, iTunes had full permission to extract and use customers' personal data.

Representatives of Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Wheaton v Apple Inc., 19-cv-02883, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).