Over the past two years, Apple has focused its attention on user privacy. The iPhone maker has feuded with other Big Tech companies, including Facebook owner Meta, over the issue. Apple’s efforts to protect user data have cost platforms like Facebook billions of dollars in revenue.
But, it turns out that Apple itself collected user data, even though their customers had explicitly changed their settings to prevent the company from doing so. Now Apple is being sued.
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Application developers and security researchers Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry of software company Mysk recently found that iOS sends “every press you make” to Apple from one of the company’s own apps. According to the developers, attempts to opt out of this data collection, such as selecting the Settings option to “disable Device Analytics sharing altogether”, did not affect the sending of data.
The data collected is also quite detailed. As Gizmodo points out, a user looking at the App Store app on their iPhone would have their search data, what they typed, and how long they viewed an app, all sent to Apple in real time. Using Apple’s Stocks app? Apple will receive a list of actions the user has watched, all the articles they have read in the app, and the names of the actions they have searched for. The timestamps for which a user viewed stock information will also be sent. Some of Apple’s apps even collect detailed information about the user’s iPhone, such as model, screen resolution, and keyboard language.
Mysk conducted the test using a jailbroken iPhone running iOS 14.6. The team discovered similar iPhone activity with a non-jailbroken phone running iOS 16. However, due to encryption, Mysk could not determine exactly what data was being sent to the device running the latest operating system.
A class action has been deposit Thursday, claiming that Apple’s actions violate California’s invasion of privacy law. The lawsuit doesn’t focus so much on whether Apple is collecting this data. The combination focuses on Apple’s settings, such as “Allow apps to request tracking” and “Share analytics,” which give users the impression that they can opt out of such tracking.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that Apple, or any tech company, collects user data. However, as Mysk’s team discovered, Apple collects this data regardless of a user’s settings where they have the option to disable data collection, which can give them a false sense of privacy.
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