Is your Pandora music app spying on you?
That’s the claim, anyway, in a new $5 million federal law suit with class action potential filed Wednesday.
Jarret Ammer, an Orange County, New York, resident and the lead plaintiff in the case, is suing Apple, Pandora and Backflip Studios, the designer of the time killing game, Paper Toss. Why? He says that the app developers passed along his location information using his "Unique Device ID"–a numerical codes specific to his phone–to advertisers without his permission.
If true, his lawyers say, it is a violation of federal computer fraud laws and New York state anti-hacking laws.
"From the perspective of advertisers engaged in surreptitious tracking, this is a perfect means of tracking mobile device users’ interests and likes on the Internet,” Ammer’s lawyers charge in the suit.
Apple is not accused of selling the info itself, but of not properly policing app developers who pass the information along to ad companies.
In April 2010, Apple attempted to change the terms of their developer agreement and ban the collection of location data for advertisers. But soon afterward Omar Hamoui, the founder and CEO of AdMob, complained that it would devastate the $1.5 billion mobile ad market.
“If enforced as written, it would be complicated or near-impossible to serve relevant advertising on the iPhone platform,” he told the online news site TechCrunch.
Ammer’s lawyers claim that Apple, in response to the mobile ad industry's complaints, has reconsidered the policy and now refuses to enforce the agreement.
IPhone and iPad users all consent to the information being passed along when using a location based app, like FourSquare, when they agree to the 159-page terms of service agreement.
But Pandora and Paper Toss, a game involving throwing a virtual paper ball into a trashcan, have no such location based service.
By allowing these apps to collect and pass the information along, Ammer’s lawyers say that his iPhone “was hijacked by [Apple, Pandora and Backflip] and turned into a device capable of spying on their every online move.”
The suit does not provide any supporting evidence for the claims.
A previous suit, filed in December and still pending also charged that Apple’s 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.
That suit, filed by Jonathan Lalo of Los Angeles, also identified Pandora and Paper Toss, as well as the Weather Channel and Dictionary.com, naming all of them as defendants along with Apple.
Neither Apple nor the app developers responded to calls seeking comment.