iOS, Android app privacy targeted in federal grand jury probe

Multiple application developers including digital music service provider Pandora have been served with subpoenas in conjunction with a federal grand jury investigation into consumer information sharing across the iOS and Android operating systems. News of the probe came to light in public filings related to Pandora's planned IPO, MarketWatch reports: "In early 2011, we were served with a subpoena to produce documents in connection with a federal grand jury, which we believe was convened to investigate the information sharing processes of certain popular applications that run on the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Android mobile platforms," the Pandora filing states. "We believe that similar subpoenas were issued on an industry-wide basis to the publishers of numerous other smartphone applications."

Late last year, Apple and iOS partners Pandora,, The Weather Channel and Backflip Studios (the developer behind the game Paper Toss) were named in a lawsuit alleging violations of computer fraud and privacy laws by enabling advertising networks to access consumers' personal data via iPhone and iPad apps. The suit, filed in U.S. federal court in San Jose, Calif., by the law firm KamberLaw on behalf of Los Angeles county resident Jonathan Lalo, contends that Apple allows ad networks to track consumers' activity based on a unique identification number, and claims apps sold related personal information to ad networks including "users' location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views." In addition, the suit states "Apple claims to review each application before offering it to its users, purports to have implemented app privacy standards and claims to have created ‘strong privacy protections' for its customers."

The KamberLaw suit petitions for class action status on behalf of users who downloaded an app on their iPhone or iPad between Dec. 1, 2008 and Dec. 23, 2010. It seeks damages, restitution and an injunction that in part requires defendants to cough up "notice and choice to consumers regarding defendants' data collection, profiling, merger and deanonymization activities." The suit followed just weeks after a Wall Street Journal report raising privacy concerns over personal data transmitted by both iOS and Android apps; the complaint sites the Journal investigation.

For more:
- read this MarketWatch article

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