Thirteen people recently filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court of Texas against Apple, Inc. and a number of app makers that they claim violated privacy laws by uploading contact information without express permission from users.
The Texas lawsuit, filed March 12, includes app makers Path, Twitter, Apple, Facebook, Beluga, Yelp!, Burbn, Instagram, Foursquare, Gowalla, Foodspotting, Hipster, LinkedIn, Rovio, ZeptoLab, Chillingo, Electronic Arts, and Kik Interactive.
The Plaintiffs claim that the class action lawsuit is on behalf of themselves and all other persons whose “privacy was invaded and whose personal address book data (including contact names, phone numbers, physical and e-mail addresses, job titles, birthdays, etc.) that had been communicated to and/or maintained on their wireless mobile devices was surreptitiously accessed, harvested uploaded and/or broadcast from their wireless mobile devices and used without their knowledge or permission by means of Apps and products made, distributed, authorized, approved and/or sold by the defendant companies named in this lawsuit.”
The lawsuit also claims that, “Literally billions of contacts from the address books of tens of millions of unsuspecting wireless mobile device owners have now been accessed and stolen. The surreptitious data uploads—occurring over both cellular networks and open, public wireless access nodes in homes, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, stores and businesses all across the nation—have, quite literally, turned the address book owners’ wireless mobile devices into mobile radio beacons broadcasting and publicly exposing the unsuspecting device owner’s address book data to the world.”
CNET News reported that representatives from Twitter, Path and Kik had no comment on the matter, while LinkedIn’s Hani Durzi responded by saying, “Yes, we’ve seen the suit. It’s baffling, because quite simply, our mobile apps do not do what is alleged in the suit.” ZeptoLab claims it doesn’t have any knowledge of the lawsuit.
About a month ago, an independent app developer discovered that Path was collecting contact data from his mobile device without his knowledge. Path quickly changed their policy, but the cat was out of the bag at that point. Other app makers, including Twitter, Yelp and Foursquare also came under fire for doing the same thing. This prompted Apple to make their own changes to their privacy policies. It also prompted Congress to send an official inquiry to the company.