A US federal judge rules that tracking accusations should be investigated
Apple will have to defend its practices in court after federal judge Lucy Koh decided there was “some ambiguity” in whether the company was allowed to collect user data through its devices.
The case will combine 19 lawsuits that have been filed against Apple, accusing it of secretly allowing applications to track users’ activities and collect information including location, address, age and gender.
The decision came in a 44-page ruling that was announced late on Tuesday.
Apple has argued that its responsibility for tracking is limited through iTunes’ Terms and Conditions.
The case was built on research by two computing experts (one of whom is a former Apple employee), who last year discovered that Apple’s devices were tracking user location approximately 100 times a day, by default. The practice started with the release of iOS 4. Other users have claimed the applications also shared their addresses, genders, ages, Unique Device Identifiers and actions performed on particular apps.
At the time, Steve Jobs publicly denied that his company had ever tracked customer movements.
The findings resulted in a PR disaster for the iPhone manufacturer and led to several lawsuits filed against Apple and other companies involved in the tracking of users. A few months later, Apple announced it would be phasing out the unique identifier that allowed applications to collect this information.
Judge Koh said the plaintiffs may pursue claims not just because of privacy concerns, but also due to the fact that these features were secretly using bandwidth and storage that was paid for by the users.
However, earlier accusations of computer fraud, wiretapping and improper record disclosure will not be part of the case, Reuters reported. Google and several online advertising agencies, previously accused of using the collected data, were also dismissed from the case.
“This case started out as a case about Apple frustrating the privacy expectations of its customers,” lead plaintiffs attorney Scott Kamber told Law.com. “And now after a year and a half of litigation and multiple motions to dismiss, the case remains that, and plaintiffs look forward to discovery and proving their claims in court.”
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