Apple hit with privacy class-action over iPhone location service

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Apple updates guidelines for gov't, law enforcement data requests
A woman claims she did not realize the company was using location services to track her and accuses the company of giving the data to third parties.

Apple has been hit with a class-action suit for using the location service function on its iPhones to track customers and provide information that information to third parties.

Filing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose division on behalf of Apple's 100 million-plus iPhone users, Chen Ma accused the company of violating their privacy, by not only being able to pinpoint user locations but also “record the duration that users stay at any given geographical point and periodically transmit” the data to Apple's database. 

Ma claims she had no idea that “her daily whereabouts” were being tracked until she saw a broadcast on China's Central Television (CCTV), which launched an investigation into the location service and the data Apple collects reportedly without user consent.

The suit alleges that iPhone users don't receive “any meaningful choice” to turn off the feature “without substantially compromising” iPhone functionality and that Apple, in response to CCTV's queries, “only stressed that it will not disclose” the data to a third party.

But the Ma takes issue with that claim, alleging that Apple has indeed handed over the information to third parties, including the U.S. government. She noted the government has made in excess of 1,000 requests for information from the Cupertino firm, though she did admit she had no knowledge as to how Apple has replied to those requests. 

In the wake of Snowden revelations, Apple earlier this year said it was not of a government-led spying program focused on the retrieval of iPhone communications, including text messages, voicemails and conversations of device owners.

Calling what she characterizes as intentional intrusion “extremely offensive and objectionable,” Ma is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages from Apple. She also asked the court to grant an injunction prohibiting Apple from collecting “highly sensitive and highly private” data through the location service feature without “meaningful notice” and “explicit consent.”

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