Did Apple Violate Privacy Laws by Revealing iTunes Listening Data?

Three iTunes users from Rhode Island and Michigan realized that their listening habits had been shared with advertisers. Now, they are taking action against Apple.

The users are seeking a class-action lawsuit against Apple, saying that Apple has disregarded legal responsibilities toward users by disclosing their personal information.

The lawsuit claims that Apple released personal listening information directly to third parties as well as allowing app developers access to iTunes libraries through Media Player.

The case is built upon criticism of Apple’s privacy practices, as well as the availability of private user data to data brokers, without the user knowing.

Also in the case is the fact that users then received unsolicited junk mail which was tailored to their past listening history — something that should not have been possible unless personal data had been shared.

However, as a Variety article notes, data brokers can obtain their information from a variety of sources, such as obtaining iTunes data through financial records unrelated to Apple.

In addition, Apple’s current Media Player instructions tell developers they must first get permission from users before accessing libraries. However, that was not the case just a few years ago when they had full access.

The claims in the lawsuit directly contrast Apple’s recent pro-privacy stance.

For example, the iTunes users notes Apple’s claim that “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone,” something they say is “plainly untrue.”

Privacy lawsuits against online media service companies is nothing new.

For example, Netflix settled a class-action lawsuit which claimed that it had violated the Video Privacy Protection Act.

However, according to Reuters, previous claims made against Apple have not been successful as users could not definitely prove that they’d been harmed.

The outcome from this lawsuit is yet to be decided.

Eric Silver

Eric Silver

Eric Silver is a veteran technology blogger and startup enthusiast that's been covering the global technology scene since the most advanced phones were still folding in half.