User privacy is one of the core iPhone features that Apple has been advertising for years. The company introduced various protections in iOS to improve user security and privacy while antagonizing companies like Meta (Facebook) and Google. But a recent discovery might tarnish Apple’s privacy claims.
Security researchers found that the App Store app records every interaction you have with the iPhone app, sending the data to Apple despite privacy restrictions that might be in place. A follow-up showed that other default Apple apps exhibit the same behavior. The list includes Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, and Stocks.
Following the discovery of these startling privacy-infringing behaviors, someone filed a class action suit against Apple in California.
“Privacy is one of the main issues that Apple uses to set its products apart from competitors,” the plaintiff, Elliot Libman, said, via Gizmodo. “But Apple’s privacy guarantees are completely illusory.”
The lawsuit accuses Apple of violating California’s Invasion of Privacy Act. The document is available at this link.
It was Gizmodo that first reported a few days ago about the privacy research showing how iPhone sends Apple analytics data even when the iPhone Analytics privacy setting is turned off.
Researchers from the Mysk software company found that the App Store sends the company “exhaustive information about nearly everything a user does in the app, despite a privacy setting”. You can check our previous coverage for more details about the initial findings.
Gizmodo then asked the researchers to test additional apps, including Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, and Stocks. They found the same data collection problem across Apple’s built-in iPhone apps.
Mysk researchers found that the iPhone privacy setting had no effect on the data collection. With iPhone Analytics turned off, the iPhone still collected the same amount of data as if it were on. Other built-in privacy settings meant to protect iPhone users did not actually prevent said data collection.
The video at the end of this post shows that the App Store iPhone app tracks everything you do inside the app in real time: What you tap, what apps you search for, what ads you see, and even how long you look at an app.
Additionally, Apple supposedly receives data from the App Store that can identify the user and the device. This includes ID numbers, the iPhone model, screen resolution, keyboard languages, and internet connectivity. All this information can be used for fingerprinting users.
Advertisers can use this sort of user-tracking tech to bypass privacy protections. As 9to5Mac points out, Apple explicitly forbids such workarounds now that it has strict privacy-protection features in place on iPhone.
Other Apple iPhone apps also reportedly ignore privacy settings when collecting user data. According to Mysk researchers, the Stocks app collects the list of watched stocks, the names of stocks you viewed or searched for, time stamps of when you did, and a record of news articles you saw in the app. That’s just one example.
Apple has yet to issue any sort of response to these serious allegations about iPhone privacy.
More iPhone coverage: For more iPhone news, visit our iPhone 14 guide.