Apple Sold Its Customers’ iTunes Data Without Consent, Lawsuit Says

Suit says that third-parties could buy music habits and user home addresses from tech giant for $136 per 1,000 people

Apple's Tim Cook
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Despite painting itself as the tech company that cares about privacy, a new lawsuit says that Apple has been “intentionally and unlawfully” selling its users’ iTunes habits and other data, including their names and home addresses, to iOS app developers and other third parties in an effort to increase revenue.

The lawsuit, filed in California last week by two residents of Rhode Island and one from Michigan, said that Apple has been selling data based on user listening habits from its iTunes Store, along with a myriad of other details tied to its customers. Usernames, addresses and music preferences have been sold without consent, according to the lawsuit.

“To supplement its revenues and enhance the formidability of its brand in the eyes of mobile application developers, Apple sells, rents, transmits, and/or otherwise discloses, to various third parties, information reflecting the music that its customers purchase from the iTunes Store application that comes pre-installed on their iPhones,” the suit reads.

Apple did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

User data is sold for approximately $136 per 1,000 users, the lawsuit says. Compounding matters, the third party buyers of Apple’s data are then able to add more personal information, “such as gender, age, household income, and marital status,” and resell their data in another package deal to new third parties, according to the suit. The data could be used by shady telemarketers to target “particularly vulnerable members of society,” the suit says.

“For example, any person or entity could rent a list with the names and addresses of all unmarried, college-educated women over the age of 70 with a household income of over $80,000 who purchased country music from Apple via its iTunes Store mobile application,” the suit reads.

As Facebook has been skewered in the last year over several data privacy concerns, Apple has positioned itself as Silicon Valley’s most privacy-focused firm. Apple CEO Tim Cook said last year that the company was incapable of running into the same privacy issues as Facebook, saying “The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer — if our customer was our product,” before adding, “We’ve elected not to do that.”

The lawsuit, filed in Northern California, takes a shot at Apple hanging a billboard in Las Vegas earlier this year reading: “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” The lawsuit called the billboard “plainly untrue.”

The lawsuit is seeking compensation of $250 per user in Rhode Island and $5,000 per iOS user in Michigan.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.