Apple is used to finding itself in the middle of a few controversies here and there. Well, with great success comes great responsibility, and problems are more than likely to arise. Apple’s battle with Spotify on the The App Store Monopoly was in the headlines yesterday and now a new class action lawsuit looms over Cupertino’s head, as reported by AppleInsider.
There’s a new class action lawsuit against Apple (third so far)
The class action alleges that Apple collected user data even when app tracking transparency was turned off. Apparently, the researchers had performed tests indicating that disabling app tracking transparency did not affect analytics data from Apple apps (the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV, and others). Apparently, the collected data is transmitted with a permanent identification number linked to iCloud accounts, although Apple promises that the information cannot identify a user. Well, that seems like an unsatisfactory answer for some people. Now, a third class action lawsuit looms over Apple’s head. Paul Whalen is the attorney who filed the lawsuit against Apple in New York (through Gizmodo). The lawsuit seeks $5 million in damages.
App Tracking Transparency was introduced with iOS 14.5 in April 2021
App Tracking Transparency was introduced in April 2021, with the iOS 14.5 update. It basically allows the user to instruct an app not to track their activity on other websites and apps. Before that, apps did this so they could show you targeted ads, based on what you’re interested in or looking for.
In the few months since its launch, many iOS users opted out of tracking, deciding they didn’t want to see targeted ads. As a result, social media apps were found to have lost around $9.85 billion in revenue in October of the same year alone. Pretty drastic, one might add.
Social media apps like Meta and Snap were quite unhappy with the transparency of app tracking and for a reason: the setting made it harder for them to show targeted ads to iOS users and therefore (quite important) disruptions in the flow of income.
But it seems it’s not just social media apps that have had issues with ATT. In November 2022, a lawsuit was filed by plaintiff Elliot Libman. The lawsuit alleged that research showed that Apple monetized analytics data such as browsing history and activity information regardless of the protective measures taken by consumers. The complainant’s main concerns were with the “Allow apps to request tracking” and “Share analytics” settings.
A second complaint was filed on January 6 in the United States The plaintiff in this one is Joaquin Serrano, and the lawsuit has been filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The allegations were similar to the first lawsuit – alleged breach of consumer privacy.
Where are all these lawsuits coming from?
In November last year, iOS developers Mysk posted some Apple Analytics findings on Twitter. According to them, an identifier in Apple’s analytics data named “dsId” and later listed as a “directory services identifier” was linked to an iCloud account.
Mysk claims to have identified another identifier, called “DSID”, which is used to identify Apple ID accounts, and it is believed to be associated with your name, email address and data in your iCloud. And, Mysk also claims that the DSID and the dsId that the App Store sends to Apple ended up being the same ID.
Overall, this identifier would be included in all analytics data that the App Store sends to Apple. However, with iOS 16 the data was not scanned because it was encrypted, but the behavior would persist.
Apple’s analytics data includes an identifier called “dsId”. We were able to verify that “dsId” is the “Directory Services Identifier”, an identifier that uniquely identifies an iCloud account. This means Apple’s analytics can personally identify you pic.twitter.com/3DSUFwX3nV
— Mysk (@mysk_co) November 21, 2022
So far, it is unclear what will happen to these lawsuits and what results they will bring.
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