A $5 Billion Class Action Filed against Apple Alleges they Sold Private Customer Data and Song lists to Data Aggregators
A $5 Billion class action has been filed against Apple in Northern California. The lawsuit states that "Apple sells, rents, transmits, and/or otherwise discloses, to various third parties, information reflecting the music that its customers purchase from the iTunes Store application that comes pre-installed on their iPhones. The data Apple discloses includes the full names and home addresses of its customers."
It will most definitely be interesting to see how Apple will answer the claims against it. It's very difficult to think that Apple is behind such a scheme as it would blow their moral stance on privacy out of the water and anger a lot of Apple fans worldwide.
Cook stated in a speech on Privacy in Europe last October: "We at Apple are in full support of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the United States. There, and everywhere, it should be rooted in four essential rights: First, the right to have personal data minimized. Companies should challenge themselves to de-identify customer data—or not to collect it in the first place. Second, the right to knowledge. Users should always know what data is being collected and what it is being collected for."
Below is information noted from the court docket on this case relating to what the Plaintiffs are demanding monetarily.
Causes for Action
Count 1: VIOLATION OF THE RIVRPA (Rhode Island's Video, Audio and Publication Rentals Privacy Act)
Count 2: VIOLATION OF THE MIPPPA (Michigan’s Preservation of Personal Privacy Act).
Count 3: UNJUST ENRICHMENT
Nature of Case
Under the segment of the lawsuit titled "Nature of Case" it states in part: "In early 2019, in an effort to capitalize on recent revelations concerning the data-sharing practices of its competitors Facebook, Inc. and Google LLC, Apple Inc. (“Apple”) placed a massive billboard in Las Vegas, Nevada touting its supposedly pro-consumer positions on issues of data privacy:
The statement on the billboard is plainly untrue, however, because – as will be explained in detail below – none of the information pertaining to the music you purchase on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.
To supplement its revenues and enhance the formidability of its brand in the eyes of mobile application developers, Apple sells, rents, transmits, and/or otherwise discloses, to various third parties, information reflecting the music that its customers purchase from the iTunes Store application that comes pre-installed on their iPhones. 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 the digitally-recorded music that its customers have purchased via the iTunes Store and then stored in their devices’ Apple Music libraries (collectively “Personal Listening Information”). After Apple discloses its customers’ Personal Listening Information, the various third-party recipients of this data then append to it a myriad of other categories of personal information pertaining to Apple’s customers – such as gender, age, household income, educational background, and marital status – only to then resell that Personal Listening Information (enhanced with various categories of demographic data) to other third parties on the open market.
Rhode Island resident Leigh Wheaton brings this action for legal and equitable remedies to redress and put a stop to the illegal actions of Apple in disclosing to third parties her Personal Listening Information and that of all other similarly situated Rhode Island residents who purchased music from Apple on its iTunes Store platform, in violation of Rhode Island’s Video, Audio and Publication Rentals Privacy Act (the “RIVRPA”).
Additionally, Michigan residents Jill Paul and Trevor Paul, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, bring this action for legal remedies to redress the illegal actions of Apple in disclosing to third parties, between May 24, 2016 and July 30, 2016, their Personal Listening Information and that of all other similarly situated Michigan residents who purchased music from Apple on its iTunes Store platform, in violation of Michigan’s Preservation of Personal Privacy Act (the “MIPPPA”).
Apple has sold, rented, transmitted, and/or otherwise disclosed the Personal Listening Information of the Plaintiffs and millions of its other customers to developers of various mobile applications available for download in its App Store, as well as to data aggregators, data appenders, data cooperatives, list brokers, and other third parties, many of whom have in turn re-disclosed Plaintiffs’ and the other unnamed class members’ Personal Listening Information to other third parties for further exploitation and monetization – all without providing prior notice to or obtaining the requisite consent from anyone. Such disclosures invaded Plaintiffs’ and the unnamed Class members’ privacy and have resulted in a barrage of unwanted junk mail to their home addresses and e-mail inboxes.
The Rhode Island RIVRPA and the Michigan MIPPPA clearly prohibit what Apple has done.
Thus, while Apple profits handsomely from its unauthorized sale, rental, transmission, and/or disclosure of its customers’ Personal Listening Information, 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 Listening Information.
Apple’s disclosures of the Personal Listening Information of Plaintiffs and the other unnamed Class members were not only unlawful, they were also dangerous because such disclosures allow for the targeting of particularly vulnerable members of society. For example, any person or entity could rent a list with the names and addresses of all unmarried, college-educated women over the age of 70 with a household income of over $80,000 who purchased country music from Apple via its iTunes Store mobile application. Such a list is available for sale for approximately $136 per thousand customers listed.
On behalf of themselves and the putative Classes defined below, Plaintiffs bring this Complaint against Apple for intentionally and unlawfully disclosing their Personal Listening Information, en masse, in violation of the RIVRPA and the MIPPPA, as well as for unjust enrichment."
Further into the lawsuit it makes the following allegation and presents a graphic as follows: "These factual allegations are corroborated by publicly-available evidence. For instance, as shown in the screenshot below, the Personal Listening Information of 18,188,721 'iTunes and Pandora Music Purchasers,' residing across the United States (including in Michigan and Rhode Island), is offered for sale on the website of Carney Direct Marketing ("CDM") – one of many traffickers of this type of Personal Listening Information – at a base price of '$80/M [per thousand records]' (8 cents each):'''
For more details on this case, review the full Class Action lawsuit filing presented below, courtesy of Patently Apple.