Apple Sued Over Privacy: Anticipating the Next WikiLeak
Apple was sued in a lawsuit filed December 23rd that alleges its devices track and sell users’ personal information to corporate partners.
While we’re waiting waiting for Julian Assange and co. to drop the impending bomb that has Bank of America quaking with fear and buying up domain names like brianmoynihansucks.com, it sounds like a wave of secrecy and cloak-and-dagger conspiracy is circulating in another market: Technology might need a WikiLeak of its own.
Bloomberg reports that a lawsuit filed on December 23rd alleges that Apple is illegally tracking and selling users’ personal information to corporate clients:
iPhones and iPads are encoded with identifying devices that allow advertising networks to track what applications users download, how frequently they’re used and for how long. “Some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including users’ location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views,” according to the suit.
The suit also lists app creators like Pandora, the Weather Channel, and Dictionary.com as defendants participating in the illegal collection and selling of user data. One app, of course, that won’t be listed, is WIkiLeaks, since Apple removed the WikiLeaks application from the App store just before Christmas.
Just how does a company discern a user’s sexual orientation and political viewpoint from app usage? I’m not sure, but the allegation raises serious questions about the nature of mobile internet and makes the FCC’s half-assed Net Neutrality proposal even scarier. As Al Franken said: “If corporations are allowed to prioritize content on the Internet, or they are allowed to block applications you access on your iPhone, there is nothing to prevent those same corporations from censoring political speech.”
Meanwhile, the SEC is inquiring about trading by Wall Street insiders on shares of non-public internet companies like Facebook and Twitter. As Newser notes, exchanges are being set up to trade in non-public shares of the companies (which can only be sold by company executives and venture investors who were issued shares early on) and “as the exchanges gain popularity, Wall Street investment pools are emerging to buy shares in the firms.”
I’m not sure whether this is actually illegal, but it sounds as much like preliminary insider trading as anything I can imagine. I can’t imagine the companies themselves would be subject to SEC regulations, it does seem sketchy for Wall Street firms to be trading on these closed-circuit equities.
It sounds like there’s some good dirt to dig up here. Assange and WikiLeaks should get cracking on the technology sector—whether or not they’ve got an app in the App Store.