iPhone Breaching Data Privacy Again

Bob Styran, IT audit expert
February 05, 2011 /

A class-action suit filed at a federal court in California has tagged iPhone operating system in a data breach involving the unauthorized transfer of the users’ personal information to advertising agencies.

Anthony Chiu, who filed the lawsuit before the US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleged that Apple is liable to privacy breach on the users’ log-in details, names, including names of contacts, and web browsing history without the users knowing the crime.

The suit also charges Apple for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and for violating the California consumer protection laws and the Stored Communications Act.

The plaintiff alleged that devices using iPhone operating system such as iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, have unique device identifier that is accessible to applications downloaded.

Chiu has raised the suit based on several reports and academic research papers claiming unauthorized transfer of personal information by iPhone applications.

”In plain English: An advertiser can know, in real-world terms, exactly what a particular mobile device was used to search for on a given day, where the search was conducted from and, assuming that the mobile device was used by its owner, the advertiser would know the identity of the person,” Chiu said.

In December last year, an investigation conducted by the Wall Street Journal revealed that smartphone applications in iPhone and Android could transmit a user’s age, gender, location, other personal information and the mobile device’s unique ID to advertising companies.

The study was conducted on 101 popular smartphone applications for iPhone and Android phones tested. The test turned out that 56 smartphones transmitted information about the mobile device’s unique ID to ad companies, 47 transmitted location of the phone, while 5 transmitted the users’ gender and age to third-parties, without the iPhone users knowing the data breach.


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