28 December 2010

AppleLeaks

Julian Assange isn’t the only one leaking private information, it seems:
Apple and various makers of iPhone and iPad apps are the subject of a lawsuit alleging that they transmit users’ personal information to advertising networks without those users’ consent.
The suit, filed on December 23 in federal court in San Jose, California, seeks class-action status. It alleges that the apps have access to “a huge amount of information about a mobile device user” such as contact lists, usernames and passwords, plus information about the user’s gender, age and income. The plaintiffs charge that sharing such information violates federal fraud and privacy laws and seek class-action status for Apple customers who downloaded apps on their iPhone or iPad between December 1, 2008 and last week.
I have several thoughts about this situation:

1.  I bet the suit is based on an incredibly minor mistake made by Apple.  From what I can tell, this will likely boil down to the filers not paying close enough attention to the app EULAs, which circumvent Apple’s agreement.  This doesn’t mean Apple will win, though, since there are plenty of judges who enjoy redistributing wealth.

2. Again, people miss the forest for the trees when it comes to information and privacy.  The issue isn’t about who has access to the data.  The issue is about how it is used.  The current laws already make it illegal to defraud people through electronic means.

3. In the same vein, why is it that law-abiding companies are burdened with anti-fraud devices?  Why doesn’t the government do a better job of prosecuting fraud?  Data security laws (doctor-patient privilege, e.g.) remind me of gun control laws.  It isn’t the honest citizens who are the problem, it’s the criminals.  As such, it should be the criminals who bear the costs of data security, not the innocent.

4. With as much as Apple charges for their products, you’d think the least they could do is ensure more user privacy.

5. Along those lines, people need to understand that third-party subsidization is the modus operandi for virtually all tech companies.  Get over it.  It keeps your costs lower (unless you buy from Apple, it seems).

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