Apple open to lawsuit over location data collection

“The US Federal Trade Commission signalled that Apple’s collection of geographic data from iPhone users who had explicitly turned off location services left it open to a lawsuit or negotiated settlement by the agency,” Joseph Menn reports for The Financial Times.

“Experts testifying at a Senate hearing on Tuesday said that Apple had gathered the information after telling customers they could disable the services,” Menn reports. “Jessica Rich, deputy director of the FTC consumer-protection bureau, said she would not comment on a specific company but said that the regulator had taken action against other technology groups over statements they had made on their privacy policies.”

“‘If a statement is made by a company that is false, it is a deceptive practice’ and subject to enforcement action, she said. Ms Rich noted that deceptive statements were one of the few avenues for redress in privacy matters and that the FTC had used ‘misstatements’ recently to press Google and Twitter to accept privacy audits for the next 20 years,” Menn reports. “‘People have a right to know who is getting their information,’ said Democratic senator Al Franken, who chairs the new committee panel on privacy and technology. ‘We need to address this problem now.'”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]


  1. I don’t have a problem with the principles of this sort of regulation because if a company has collected data that they shouldn’t then they should be accountable for their actions. The problem is that these sort of things typically result in stupid lawsuits for ridiculous sums by people who haven’t actually suffered, haven’t lost money, but want lots of it.

  2. So Menn takes some generic statements made by an FTC official and distorts the facts regarding Apple so he can apply those statements to Apple. Can you say “slimy”? I knew you could.

  3. “If a statement is made by a company that is false, it is a deceptive practice”

    Apple has been clear in that there was a bug which caused the issue with the tower location tracking db; the original intention is not to track if users disable the services.

    Will Ms Rich understand the difference between a false statement and an unintentional software malfunction? She seems deceptive.

    1. Exactly. The law is meant to punish those who mislead DELIBERATELY, not when it is done accidentally. It would reflect very poorly on the FTC if they are just waiting to ambush firms that make an honest mistake. They have every right to demand an explanation from Apple, but to hint at legal action is kind of stupid and publicity-seeking.

  4. And by 2012, our federal government want a NEW tracking chip put in each phone so they will know where we are … I mean, keep us safe.

    Apple stated that they do not read these files. They are just in the personal devices and now can be turned off.

  5. Apple DIDN’T collect (harvest) any data. It remained in a file on the device for use with location services. IIRC, the data collected from nearby cel towers was NEVER sent to Apple, it remained on the device at all times. Nothing was ‘collected’ by Apple, no lawsuit over collection since none occurred. How many times does this have to be explained?

  6. Except Apple didn’t collect any information. As Mr. Tibble said in the hearing. The only information used was to co-ordinate where the cell towers or Wifi signals so the phone could give information about things in the area for the customer. Apple did not collect this information for it’s own uses or spam anyone with any commercials and so on….

  7. Apparently Mr. Menn wasn’t listening very carefully to the testimony yesterday. Anyone who tries to sue Apple will lose because what proof are they going to give as far as the information that Apple will supposedly have? Location data isn’t the proof. That is the normal operation of all phones, especially if they have GPS built in. How are you supposed to use GPS if the device can’t co-ordinate its own location?

  8. The point is that users thought that turning off location services would stop any location based collective activity. It looks like that wasn’t the case, that the phone still collected location based data even after location services were turned off. Apple is thus responsible for privacy infringement, deceptive practices, among others things, if their terms and conditions did not cover this.

    It’s their software, and they’ve even stated that it was a ‘bug’. That’s a bullshit excuse. But anyway you swing it, Apple’s already committed themselves to an admission of guilt with the “It’s just a bug” bullshit.

    Stop defending Apple, and you’re all all over Google and others for tracking people.

    1. asdfasdf – The point is that people are too sue happy. The excuse of “its a bug” is perfectly legit so stop kidding yourself that Apple and other make perfect software without any “oops” or “Oh crap that wasn’t intended” statements after problems surface. And yes they have to fix the problems and mistakes they have unintentionally created, but really you are calling an honest mistake a diceptive practice? I call BS on your logic.

  9. Tempest in a tea cup.
    Everybody go home.
    Just another frivolous lawsuit.
    No tracking involved.
    Just a database of cell towers and hot spots.
    Paranoia over nothing.
    Nothing to see here.
    Get back to your daily lives.
    Move along, move along…

    Much as I despise tracking and champion our Constitutional right to privacy, I have to wonder what people, such as the inquiring politicians, are up to that would be so freakingly upsetting if somebody found out! Honesty is so out-of-style. We are so dependent upon our secrets.

  10. More hilarious: The so-called “Patriot Act” allows UN-warrented spying on US citizens in direct violation of the US Constitution.

    So where is the lawsuit against this FAR WORSE violation of personal privacy? Hmm? Who here really trusts the US government knowing EVERYTHING we do, WITHOUT court approval?

    (And yes kids. Go read “The Patriot Act” again, if you ever did in the first place. No court warrants are required with this POS legislation on the books. The people who wrote it and voted for it are criminals. The FBI have 7+ Internet data spying nodes on the Internet WITHIN the USA. So sue them already. That’s what’s called Justified Paranoia).

    1. While I agree with your sentiment and your statements about the “Patriot Act”, the Constitution itself contains no express right to privacy. There are limited extensions of the Bill of Rights that address privacy; however, it’s those “activist judges” who have really defined this right through judicial interpretations of the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 14th amendments.

      On the other hand, I did read the “Patriot Act” and think you’re actually understating its perniciousness.

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