Major app developers sued for secretly tracking users

Posted by Raven Lovecraft

There's really nothing quite so aggravating as when you download an app and find out later that it's keeping track of your phone or GPS details. And now someone's actually bringing out the legal guns to fight this unsettling trend.

A lawsuit, filed by four individuals in search of class-action status, was filed in Federal court in San Jose, California, going after app developers as well as Apple. The suit only targets apps made for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

The source of contention is, mainly, that app developers disclose sensitive information about its mobile users to advertising companies. People who hop onto a popular weather app may notice an ad at the bottom of the screen for a local restaurant or store. But users of these apps never agree to disclose their location information to third-party sources.

Advertisers also get access to the Unique Device Identifier (UDID), which is a special tracking code Apple assigns to all of its mobile devices. This means the advertiser knows your phone personally, so it knows if it's shown you a specific ad before and what ads you've clicked on.

The problem is that not only is there no notification that this information is being shared, there's no way to disable it.

"Apple knew this was an issue. They had a duty to warn consumers and at a minimum, if they intend to profit from this, they need to let people know and get their consent," said Majed Nachawati, one of the group of lawyers representing the plaintiffs in this case.

Among the apps named in the lawsuit include lesser-known titles like Toss It and Pimple Popper Lite. But some heavyweights, like The Weather Channel, Dictionary.com, and Pandora are also being roped in, reports Wired.

Apple is also named in the suit. "Defendant Apple has also aided and abetted the remaining Defendants in the commission of their legal wrongs against Plaintiffs and the proposed class," reads the court filing.

The lawsuit is seeking monetary damages as well as a court order to stop unnotified user tracking.