iPhone, iPad users sue Apple over location tracking database

In class action suit, two men allege Apple violates federal law, enables stalking

Two Apple customers are suing the company over its iOS location tracking database, charging the data collection violates the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

An iPhone user and an iPad user have sued Apple over its location tracking database on their devices. The federal class action suit alleges that Apple's tracking violates the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

In the complaint, the two users say they are bringing the suit "to stop Apple's illegal and intrusive scheme of collecting personal location information." They're asking a federal judge in Florida to force Apple to disable this kind of tracking in the next release of its iOS software, and ask for damage awards for "violations of their statutory and common law privacy rights."

The complaint is online at Scribd.com.

BACKGROUND: Apple iPhone location tracking has been no secret, researcher claims

The plaintiffs are Vikram Ajjampur of Hillsborough County, Fla., who uses an iPhone, and iPad user William Devito of New York state. They appear to base their complaint, and their understanding of what Apple is doing and how, entirely on news reports from a variety of sources, which are cited in the complaints footnotes.

The two men argue that they, and other users, "did not provide any sort of informed consent to the tracking" and that "Apple collects the location information covertly, surreptitiously and in violations of law."

By storing the information without encrypting it, "Apple places users at serious risk of privacy invasions, including stalking." Finally, they claim they and all users "were harmed by Apple's accrual of personal location, movement and travel histories because their personal computers were used in ways they did not approve, and because they were personally tracked just as if by a tracking device for which a court-ordered warrant would ordinarily be required." 

They claim that Apple's actions are in violation of the U.S. Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. "By secretly installing software that records users every moves, Apple has accessed Plaintiffs computers, in the course of interstate commerce or communication, in excess of the authorization provided by Plaintiffs" as described in the act. Those computers, they say, are "protected computers" as defined by the act.

Apple also violated the act by "causing the transmission of a program, information, code or command both in deploying the iOS 4 operating systems, and also as a result of the syncing of user handheld devices with their laptop or desktop computers." This action "caused harm aggregating at least $5,000 in value."

Among additional allegations, the suit argues that Apple violates state laws that follow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act, banning actions that are either unfair or deceptive. The plaintiffs say Apple's "inadequate disclosures made in its privacy policy" are both; as are its tracking and syncing of users' personal information, because users "had no knowledge of Apple's intent or actions."

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

Email: john_cox@nww.com

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