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App Makers Sued Over Secret Tracking

Apple and several other app makers such as Pandora and Dictionary.com, were sued for "secretly" helping advertisers create profiles of iPhone users without their permission. One particular accusation is that these app makers revealed the user's location to advertisers in the creation of these profiles.

The lawsuit which was filed in California, calls for payment for damages as well as a court order to stop any kind of profiling that is going on by the app makers and advertisers. The main issue of the case is the practice of some app makers passing location and identification information about an app user to companies which display advertisements inside of the apps themselves. The point that is being made is that apps do not ask for permission to do so and do not make clear to users that this information is being sent to other parties.

This type of tracking is possible due to UDIDs (Unique Device Identifiers). Each iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad are assigned a unique number, like a social security number, which may be used for tracking. Several apps may pass these identifiers to advertising companies which then build a profile of the user, tracking which ads have been shown and clicked on.

Because the UDIDs of devices cannot be changed, users are helpless to apps that make use of these ID numbers for advertising purposes. The suit claims that apps which send UDIDs and location information to third parties are violating computer-fraud and business-fraud laws.

Although Apple does not send these IDs to advertisers, it is also being sued due to the fact that Apple approves all of its apps.

One of the lawyers involved in the case, Majed Nachawati, stated that, “Apple knew this was an issue, they had a duty to warn consumers and at a minimum, if they intend to profit from this, they need to let people know and get their consent.”

Advertising profiles have become a hot topic in recent lawsuits and will likely continue to upset many more people, but are they really all that harmful? What do you guys think?