Apple Sued by Customers Claiming Their iTunes Information Was Sold to Third Parties

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The Apple logo is displayed on the exterior of an Apple Store on Feb. 1, 2018 in San Francisco. 

Apple privacy policy maintains the company collects data but it is not directly tied to specific users.

Apple has been hit with a class action federal lawsuit by customers who are alleging that information on their iTunes purchases was sold by Apple to third parties. The plaintiffs are seeking an excess of $5 million in damages, according to the lawsuit that was filed May 24 in California’s Northern Federal District.

Leigh Wheaton, Jill Paul and Trevor Paul, three iTunes users from Rhode Island and Michigan, filed the lawsuit claiming that despite the fact that Apple engaged in an ad campaign “touting its supposedly pro-consumer positions on issues of data privacy” and even put up a billboard in Vegas with the slogan “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone," they were also mining and selling person information to third parties. The parties complain that the collection of the data was done in violation of their own individual states' privacy laws.

“None of the information pertaining to the music you purchase on your iPhone stays on your iPhone," according to the 51-page lawsuit. 

The complaint alleges Apple supplements its revenues by selling, renting and transmitting with third parties information about the music that each customer purchases from the iTunes Store. 

“The data Apple discloses includes the full names and home addresses of its customers, together with the genres and, in some cases, the specific titles of digitally-recorded music that its customers have purchased via the iTunes Store and then stored in their devices,” according to the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit further alleges that after Apple discloses its customers’ personal listening information, the recipients of this data then match it to other personal information on Apple’s customers and then resell that information on the open market. The lawsuit also accuses Apple of selling, renting, transmitting or disclosing the personal listening information of millions of customers to developers of various mobile applications available for download in its App Store as well as to data aggregators, data cooperatives, list brokers and other third parties. 

“Apple profits handsomely from its unauthorized sale, rental, transmission” of customers’ personal listening information, states the lawsuit. “It does so at the expense of its customers’ privacy and statutory rights because Apple does not notify let alone obtain the requisite written consent from its customers prior to disclosing their personal information.” 

However, Apple’s Privacy Policy states that it only collects “non-personal information” that is not directly connected to any individual users. The policy states that it collects “data in a form that does not, on its own, permit direct association with any specific individual.” The company policy also says they reserve the right to collect, use, transfer, and disclose that non-personal information for any purpose. Apple states on its privacy page that the information it may collect includes customer activities on the iTunes Store, App Store, Mac App Store, App Store for Apple TV and iBooks Stores and from our other products and services. Apple says the information is then aggregated and “used to help us provide more useful information to our customers and to understand which parts of our website, products and services are of most interest.”

Apple has not responded to Billboard’s request for comment.