Apple Accused in Suit of Tracking IPad, IPhone User Location

Apple Inc. (AAPL) was accused of invasion of privacy and computer fraud by two customers who claim in a lawsuit that the company is secretly recording movements of iPhone and iPad users.

Vikram Ajjampur, an iPhone user in Florida, and William Devito, a New York iPad customer, sued April 22 in federal court in Tampa, Florida, seeking a judge’s order barring the alleged data collection.

The complaint cited a report last week by two computer programmers claiming that Apple’s iOS4 operating system is logging latitude-longitude coordinates along with the time a spot is visited. The programmers said Apple devices are collecting about a year’s worth of location data. Apple hasn’t commented on the matter since the April 20 report was released.

“We take issue specifically with the notion that Apple is now basically tracking people everywhere they go,” Aaron Mayer, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said today in a telephone interview. “If you are a federal marshal, you have to have a warrant to do this kind of thing, and Apple is doing it without one.”

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked to meet with Apple and Google Inc. executives to discuss reports that their products collect information about users’ locations. Madigan wrote to both companies asking what information they store, its purposes and for how long, according to a statement by her office today.

Regulators Investigating

French, German, Italian and South Korean regulators are investigating the alleged location collection feature on Apple devices following publication of the report by Alasdair Allan, a senior research follow in Astronomy at University of Exeter in England, and Pete Warden, a former Apple software engineer, authorities in those countries disclosed last week.

Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the suit.

The plaintiffs are seeking to represent a group of U.S. customers whose iPhones and iPads have the operating system that allegedly collects location data, Mayer said. About one-third to one-half of the country’s 60 million iPhone users could be part of the class, he said.

Ajjampur and Devito are also asking for refunds because they wouldn’t have bought their products had they known about the feature, Mayer said. The complaint says the alleged location collection violates federal computer fraud laws and consumer fraud and deceptive trade practice laws in many states. The lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages for alleged negligent misrepresentation.

The Apple customers said they were unaware of the tracking system and never consented to it. Even if they disable the global-positioning function on their devices, the tracking system keeps working, according to the complaint.

The case is Ajjampur v. Apple Inc., 11-cv-00895, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Tampa).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at kgullo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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