18 Firms Sued Over App Privacy, Including Apple, Twitter, Facebook

/// 18 Firms Sued Over App Privacy, Including Apple, Twitter, Facebook

March 15, 2012  |  Blog

The controversy over apps that access the address book on peoples’ mobile phones has resulted in a privacy lawsuit that names Path, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple, among others.

Apps from these firms “surreptitiously harvest, upload and illegally steal the owner’s address book data without the owner’s knowledge or consent,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Texas district court. These uploads “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.”

The suit calls on app makers to “halt and prevent these unconscionable, illegal practices” and hand over damages.

The lawsuit stems from an issue that made headlines last month, when Path CEO Dave Morin acknowledged that Path uploads the entire iPhone address book without user permission on the iOS version of the app. Morin apologized and released a new version of the Path iPhone app that allows users to opt in or out of sharing contact information.

The problem was not limited just to Path, however, prompting companies like Instagramand Twitter to update or clarify their policies.

The lawsuit also names Beluga, Yelp, Burbn, Instagram, Foursquare Labs, (the now-defunct) Gowalla, Foodspotting, Hipster, LinkedIn, Rovio Mobile, ZeptoLab, Chillingo, Electronics Arts, and Kik Interactive.

The suit names a dozen plaintiffs; 11 live in Austin, Texas while another resides in Fayetteville, Arkansas. All but two own iPhones, while the remaining individuals have Android-based Samsung devices. The suit does not mention any particular harm that has come to these people as a result of the address book controversy, except to say that it violates their privacy.

That defense didn’t work out too well last year, when a California judge dismissed an app-related privacy lawsuit against Apple, arguing that the plaintiffs failed to prove that Apple and its products caused them any harm.

In the wake of the Path incident, two members of Congress penned a letter to Apple asking the company for more information about iOS apps that access users’ contact lists. Apple recently submitted its response, but Henry A. Waxman, ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. G.J. Butterfield, ranking member of Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade said this week that Cupertino’s responses were not sufficient. They have asked Apple to send a representative to Capitol Hill to explain in person.

Link: 18 Firms Sued Over App Privacy, Including Apple, Twitter, Facebook


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