Apple charged with violating user privacy

Ronny Kerr · December 28, 2010 · Short URL:

Along with some third-party app developers, Apple allegedly enabled sharing of data with advertisers

iPhone privacyApple and various third-party app developers, including Pandora, and the Weather Channel, have been accused in a new class action lawsuit of allowing applications for iPhone and iPad devices to collect personally identifying information and transmit that data to third-party advertisers. The suit, filed in a San Jose district court and available on Scribd, says the apps collect this information with the user’s Unique Device ID (UDID) and send it along to third parties, all without the the consent of user.

Apple has yet to officially comment on the lawsuit.

On pages 11 and 12 of the suit, various appmakers (and their apps), including Backflip Studios (Paper Toss), GOGII (TextPlus4),, Pandora, Outfit7 (Talking Tom Cat), Sunstorm Interactive (Pumpkin Maker) are described in summary, along with charges of how they allegedly transmit user data to third parties. Here are a couple samples:

TextPlus4 is a mobile device application owned by Defendant, GOGII, Inc. TextPlus4 is a messaging application that allows users to send and receive text and picture messages. TextPlus 4 shares its users’ UDID, Age, Gender, and and/or Location (ZIP Code) with numerous third parties, including ad networks. No location based service is involved.

Pandora is a mobile device application owned by Defendant, Pandora Media, Inc. Pandora is a music application that allows users to access, stream and download digital music files. Pandora shares its users’ UDID and Age, Gender, and/or Location (City, ZIP Code and DMA Code) with third parties, including ad networks.    No location based service is involved.

The only other non-Apple defendant, The Weather Channel, is specifically singled out as providing a location-based service, but is still charged with neglecting to inform users that their data is being transmitted to third parties.

All that personal information is great for ad targeting, but it could be in direct violation of established privacy protections, especially if the plaintiffs are correct in charging that users never consented to having their data shared.

Filed on behalf of Jonathan Lalo of Los Angeles, the suit seeks class action status.

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Pandora, the leading internet radio service, gives people music they love
anytime, anywhere, through a wide variety of connected devices: laptop and
desktop computers, smartphones, connected BluRay players, connected TVs,
etc. Personalized stations launch instantly with the input of a single “seed” –
a favorite artist, song or genre. The Music Genome Project®, a deeply
detailed, hand-built musical taxonomy, powers the personalization or
Pandora. Using this musicological “DNA” and constant listener feedback
Pandora crafts personalized stations from the more than 800,000 songs that
have been analyzed since the project began in January 2000.
More than 75 million people throughout the United States listen to
personalized radio stations for free on Pandora through their PCs, mobile
phones and devices such as the iPad, and connected in-house devices
ranging from TVs to set-top boxes to Blu-Ray players. Mobile technology has
been a significant factor in the growth and popularity of Pandora, starting
with the introduction of the Apple app store for the iPhone in the summer of
2008. Pandora instantly became one of the most top downloaded apps and
today, according to Nielsen, is one of the top five most popular apps across
all smartphone platforms.

Pandora is free, simple and, thanks to connectivity, available everywhere
consumers are – at the office, at home, in the car and all points in between.
In 2009 the Company announced that Pandora would be incorporated into
the dashboard in Ford cars via SYNC technology; GM has already followed in
announcing plans to integrate Pandora into its vehicles and Mercedes-Benz
introduced their Media Interface Plus device that works with the
free Pandora iPhone app to provide direct control of Pandora from in-dash
stereo controls. This was all great news for the millions of Pandora listeners
who had been plugging their smartphones into car dashboards to listen to
personalized stations while driving. More than 50 percent of radio listening
happens in the car, making it a crucial arena for Pandora.

Today tens of millions of people have a deeply personal connection with
Pandora based on the delight of personalized radio listening and discovery.
These highly engaged listeners reinforce the value Pandora provides to: 1)
musicians, who have found in Pandora a level playing field on which their
music has a greater chance of being played than ever before; 2) advertisers,
who benefit from the multi-platform reach of Pandora, as well as its best
practices in targeting consumers for specific campaigns; 3) the music
industry, which has found in Pandora a highly effective distribution channel;
and 4) automobile and consumer electronics device manufacturers, who have
noted that incorporating Pandora into their product makes it more valuable
to consumers.

Pandora continues to focus on its business in the United States. The radio
arena has never been hotter, thanks to technology that enables radio to be
personalized to the individual and more accessible than ever before. Right
now millions of people listen to Pandora in the United States and we hope
someday to bring Pandora to billions of people around the world.

• 2000 – Tim Westergren’s Music Genome Project begins.
• 2005 – Pandora launches on the web.
• 2008 – Pandora app becomes one of the most consistently downloaded
apps in the Apple store.
• 2009 – Ford announces Pandora will be incorporated into car
dashboard. Alpine and Pioneer begin selling aftermarket radios that
connect to consumers’ iPhones and puts the control and command of
Pandora into the car dashboard.
• 2010 – Pandora is present on more than 200 connected consumer
electronics devices ranging from smartphones to TVs to set-top boxes
to Blu-ray players and is able to stream visual, audio, and interactive
advertising to computers, smartphones, iPads, and in-home connected