Apple, Facebook and others named in privacy lawsuit

Thirteen individuals have filed a lawsuit against a number of app makers including Path, Facebook, Instagram, Yelp and Rovio, accusing them of uploading the information stored in their mobile phones’ address book to their servers and using the appropriated data for their own ends, Venture Beat reports.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas, is the result of last month’s discovery by app developer Arun Thampi that the Path app copies the entire contents of the users’ address books and sends them to the company servers without asking the users for permission or notifying them of it in any way. Path has subsequently admitted to doing it.

Further investigation into the matter revealed that other app developers have seemingly been doing the same thing, and Twitter has also confirmed the practice, explaining that the data is collected and stored only if the user takes advantage of the “Find Friends” feature because it scans the address book to search for individuals who also have a Twitter account.

Even though the developers of the apps have been found violating Apple’s privacy policies by distributing these apps through its App Store, the company has also been named as a defendant in the suit because it approved the apps, allowing them to be sold from its Store.

“Literally billions of contacts from the address books of tens of millions of unsuspecting wireless mobile device owners have now been accessed and stolen,” claim the plaintiffs. “The surreptitious data uploads—occurring over both cellular networks and open, public wireless access nodes in homes, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, stores and businesses all across the nation—have, quite literally, turned the address book owners’ wireless mobile devices into mobile radio beacons broadcasting and publicly exposing the unsuspecting device owner’s address book data to the world.”

As a result of the companies’ wrongful actions and/or inaction, the plaintiff say that they suffered damages and incurred many expenses, for which they want to be reimbursed. They accused the companies of having invaded their privacy, having been negligent, breaching their devices, earning money by using and selling things that don’t belong to them, and more.

The plaintiffs asked for the suit to be allowed to gain class-action status, and their attorneys say that the list of defendants could also be expanded.

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