Apple Served with Class Action over User Privacy Violations

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Apple Inc. and all its devices are famously known for their safety and security. They sort of claim to be immune to external hacking, breach of privacy, and virus attacks. But, what if Apple Inc. were to breach its own laws and violate our trust? 

What did Apple Inc. do?

  • Apple recorded, tracked, collected, and monetised analytical data; including browsing history and activity information
  • Apple Inc. conducted this regardless of what safeguard the "privacy settings" of consumers and to undertake and protect their privacy
  • Even when users follow Apple's instructions blindly and mostly turn off "Allow Apps to Request to Track" and/or "Share [Device] Analytics" in their iPhones and other devices on their privacy controls
  • Apple Inc.,however, continued to record the usage of consumers' apps such as app browsing information, and personal communication in its proprietary Apple apps
  • It also included Apple Music, App Store, Apple TV, Stocks, and Books

What is the lawsuit about and who filed it?

  • In the lawsuit filed by a New York citizen who is an iPhone 13 owner, Elliot Libman, accused Apple of "utterly false" assurances that Apple users are in control of what information they share when they use stock on iPhone apps.
  • Especially, the class action claimed that Apple mobile device options which were to disable sharing of device analytics and opt out of settings such as "Allow Apps to Request to Track", actually do nothing to stop Apple Inc. from continuing to collect data relating to the users' browsing history and other activities for monetization purposes. 

Privacy is one of the main issues that Apple uses to set its products apart from competitors,” the lawsuit filed Thursday said. “But Apple’s privacy guarantees are completely illusory.”

To back up the allegations, the complaint also cites a current report by Gizmodo which covers the work of security researchers at the software company - Mysk. The software researchers Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry affirmed that they have found proof that the anti-tracking and analytics control settings have no actual effect on Apple's data collection system in the stock apps.

According to the software researchers, the App Store app continually harvests a wealth of data in real time that includes user taps, apps searched for, viewed ads, and how long a user looks at any given app, among others. 

Along with these, Apple Inc. is also allegedly able to gather details in spite of device fingerprinting methods; including ID numbers, installed keyboard languages, screen resolution, device model, and internet connection type.

In another example, the Mysk researchers applied that the Stocks app sent Apple Inc. a user's list of watched stocks or searched for as well as a record of news articles viewed in the app. 

"Opting-out or switching the personalization options off did not reduce the amount of detailed analytics that the app was sending," Mysk told Gizmodo. "I switched all the possible options off, namely personalized ads, personalized recommendations, and sharing usage data and analytics."

The researchers found this information using a jailbroken ‌iPhone‌ running iOS 14.6. The team discovered similar ‌iPhone‌ activities on a non-jailbroken phone running iOS 16 in which the data was encrypted and it was not possible to determine what it exactly contained. However, this limitation has not prevented the findings from filing the lawsuit.

"Through its pervasive and unlawful data tracking and collection business, Apple knows even the most intimate and potentially embarrassing aspects of the user's app usage — regardless of whether the user accepts Apple's illusory offer to keep such activities private," the complaint read. 

So, the question here is whether Apple devices are actually safe and non-breachable or are they not? 

Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

Posted in Articles, iOS, News, Updates on Nov 26, 2022

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