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.]

17 Comments

  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?

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