Several popular applications were accused of accessing iPhone user contact address books without their knowledge or consent between 2009 and 2012.
Twitter, Instagram, Yelp and Foursquare are among the companies whose apps were accused of the data breach, and many complaints were made that the practice was a breach of personal privacy. With the number of people affected, the matter was brought to the attention of regulators who found that the social network platform Path were liable for breaches, and a huge settlement has been made.
The 8 companies involved are set to pay £4.1m for reportedly violating user privacy. The allegations of “unconscionable, illegal practices” were brought along expectations that each affected user would be able to recover at least around £80.00. However, the £4.1m settlement may well be spread thinly across some 7 million members of an ongoing litigation group.
Not the first time…
The settlement is not a one off – other internet giants have also been in trouble for allegedly invading the privacy of users. Facebook paid a settlement of around £15m after some 124 million Facebook users had their ‘likenesses’ taken and used in “sponsored stories” for advertisements.
Search engine and technology giants Google paid out around £7m after it was found that Google had allegedly been selling and sharing what users had been searching for on the internet. This kind of information can be very valuable to businesses who need to understand what people are looking for. However, most people would not appreciate their online searches being recorded and sold to businesses without knowledge or consent. In this deal, 62 million people were affected and a part of the action.
Valuable contact lists
People who use iPhones or the iOS system on any of their devices may hold valuable information in their contacts list. Whilst this may not seem like much, companies and businesses are constantly trying to obtain more information from consumers – to see what they like, what they want, and who they interact with.
The complete list of companies involved in this settlement are:
- Food spotting
- Gowalla (has since ceased operating)
As with many apps, the money is usually in user growth, which is why apps often ‘reward’ users when they invite others to join. The larger the user network, the more money the companies can make. With access to a user’s contact list, they could direct marketing at these contacts in the hopes they will join the user by installing the app. Apple themselves are also facing action brought against them for their involvement in allowing the data breach.
Actions defended by the tech giants
The companies involved attempted to defend their actions as “necessary” for customer needs. District Judge Jon Tigar quickly rejected this excuse:
“…fundamentally, this case is about whether Apple’s conduct and that of application developers violated community norms of privacy. A ‘reasonable’ expectation of privacy is an objective entitlement founded on broadly based and widely accepted community norms.”
Surely it’s a reasonable norm to expect that, when you use an app, your information is used for a specified and proper reason and will not be taken and stored or sold behind your back?
IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.
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