A pair of Apple customers has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that Apple is invading their privacy by collecting location data about iPhone and iPad users without their knowledge. The suit follows the revelation last week by security researchers that Apple is collecting and storing some location data from users.
The suit against Apple, which was filed Monday in Florida, is seeking class-action status and accuses Apple of using the GPS feature on iOS-based devices or cell-tower triangulation to pinpoint user location and then stores that data in an unencrypted format, all without the consent or knowledge of the user.
“All iPhones log, record and store users’ locations based on latitude and longitude alongside a timestamp. The iPhones store this information in a file called “consolidated.db” or something similar. Apple intentionally began recording this information with the release of its iOS 4 operating system in June 2010. Apple uses a cell-tower triangulation to obtain user location. Recording Your Moves. Alternatively, Apple may use global positioning system (GPS) data to obtain user location,” the suit alleges.
“Apple devices download the user location data to the user’s computer when the mobile device synchronizes (“syncs”) or shares data with the computer. The data is unencrypted on the mobile devices and also on users’ computers that sync with those mobile devices. Users of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, including Plaintiffs, were unaware of Apple’s tracking their locations and did not consent to such tracking.
“Apple’s Terms of Service do not disclose its comprehensive tracking of users. Plaintiffs and other users did not provide any sort of informed consent to the tracking at issue in this case.”
The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court in Tampa on behalf of Vikram Ajjampur and William Devito, who own iOS devices and allege in the suit that they were unaware of the location tracking and storage activity. Apple has yet to respond publicly to the disclosure of the tracking.
The extent and details of the tracking came to light last week when researchers Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan presented research they’d done on the way the system works and how much data is collected and stored.
The suit is not the only fallout from the researchers’ revelations. Last week, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sent a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs expressing his concern about the privacy and security implications of the tracking. Franken, the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, has scheduled a hearing on smartphone privacy issues on May 10.
In the lawsuit, Ajjampur and Devito ask that Apple be forced to disable the tracking functionality in the next release of iOS, the operating system used on iPhones and iPads and some iPods, and pay users unspecified damages.
“Apple’s iPhones and iPad 3Gs are carried with users to essentially every location they travel to, making the information collected by Apple highly personal; indeed, in many instances it may be information to which employers and spouses are not privy. The accessibility of the unencrypted information collected by Apple places users at serious risk of privacy invasions, including stalking,” the suit alleges.