Apple, Facebook, Path, Twitter, others face class action lawsuit

Apple, Facebook, Path, Twitter, others face class action lawsuit

Summary: Apple, Beluga, Burbn, Chillingo, Electronic Arts, Facebook, Foodspotting, Foursquare Labs, Gowalla, Hipster, Instagram, Kik, LinkedIn, Path, Rovio Mobile, Twitter, Yelp, and ZeptoLab UK are being sued.

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Last week, 13 individuals targeted 18 mobile app makers accused of automatically uploading user address books without permission with a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas. The suit, which seeks class action status, has the following defendants: Apple, Beluga, Burbn, Chillingo, Electronic Arts, Facebook, Foodspotting, Foursquare Labs, Gowalla, Hipster, Instagram, Kik Hipster, LinkedIn, Path, Rovio Mobile, Twitter, Yelp, and ZeptoLab UK.

Here's an excerpt from the lawsuit:

Literally billions of contacts from the address books of tens of millions of unsuspecting wireless mobile device owners have now been accessed and stolen. 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.

Interestingly, even if Facebook's own apps aren't doing anything wrong, the company still has to worry about Beluga and Gowalla, both which it acquired last year:

On information and belief, Facebook has acquired the companies that formerly owned the Gowalla App (i.e., Defendant Gowalla Incorporated) and the Beluga App and/or those companies’ assets and personnel and is the successor-in-interest to each of those companies.

CNET, which first covered the lawsuit, says Kik, Path, and Twitter declined to comment. I contacted Facebook, and Menlo Park also declined to comment.

"Yes, we've seen the suit," a LinkedIn spokesperson said in a statement. "It's baffling, because quite simply, our mobile apps do not do what is alleged in the suit." It would not surprise me if Facebook and others end up in the same boat.

This all started with the Path fiasco last month (see links below). It was discovered that Path was uploading contact information from smartphones to its servers. This resulted in a huge uproar from the technology industry. Path apologized and deleted "the entire collection of user uploaded contact information" from its servers. This in turn led to Apple and others being involved.

See also:

Topics: Social Enterprise, Apple, Apps, Legal, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

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77 comments
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  • It's the old

    "Throw eveyone in there and a few will pay a small amount as opposed to large legal fees to prove the're innocent".
    William Farrel
  • Sue them all! They are all guilty!

    Shut em all down. I could care less.
    rdw551
    • how much less...

      ...could you care?
      keithc
    • And yet you cared enough to comment on this.

      Troll much?
      athynz
      • yay my first troll

        I haven't trolled much so I appologize if I don't do this right.

        Ha ha your a poopy head. :p
        xangpow
    • Could care less?

      I think you mean that you couldn't care less. People don't even listen to themselves and spout mindless gibberish.
      grampadave
  • Just wow.

    That's a lot of unchecked personal info theft. I'm assuming Apple is listed because they don't have an "Allow evil (y/n)?" option to control contact list access.
    spstanley
    • Apple is no angel

      Apple has as much filth on it's hands as any company out there. They just have good marketing and P.R. and pretend to be goody too shoes.
      stephen714
      • That still does not mean

        they are guilty of this. Sounds to me like you might have a horse in this race - you part of that class action suit hoping to score some bucks? Good luck with that as the lawyers are gonna get their nice cut and by the time it trickles down to you you might get enough cash to buy that pack of gum you've been wanting while the price of the products and services these companies provide go up even more. Yup, way to go there sport.
        athynz
    • Malware: IT JUST WORKS!

      This is what happens when Apple users have too much confidence in Apple's (lack of) security. They believe they are safe from virus and malware and that Apple vets all apps before it hits the appstore.
      warboat
      • Vetting apps

        Well, they certainly have vetted all the apps we've submitted. Why do you imagine they don't?
        shannon.ahern
    • Just wow continued...

      I am so in agreement with you! "Allow evil app to steal by reason of marketing (y/n)?"
      j_laramore
  • Is anyone really surprised by what these corportations are doing?

    Too much of this is getting out of hand, there is no reason this should be allowed to stand and should be stopped immediately.
    sn00ze
  • What I don't understand is...

    how can any CEO / GM or Product Manager think that it's ok to create an app that they know will remove/copy information in a user's phone and upload it to their servers.

    What are they doing with all these email addresses and phone numbers? Selling the email addresses to marketeers? Selling mobile numbers so they have more numbers to text advertisments to?

    If law enforcement must prove probable cause to get a warrant to view the contents of your phone THEN where does that put the defendants who knowingly have taken copies of your confidential information (without a warrant)?
    dave01234
    • What I don't understand is...

      They do this because the laws can't keep up with technology. We need a consumer watchdog to ensure Software companies don't violate our rights any further. Security needs to be at the forefront of technology, but sadly people are idiots and a lot of them don't care as long as they get to strut their toys. Moorans!
      Rob.sharp
      • I agree...

        I agree with Rob. Security should be at the forefront of technology and the Government both Federal and State should be doing something to protect the public from unscrupulous software companies that would surreptitiously steal personal data no matter what face they put on it once exposed.
        mikeg@...
      • I agree...

        I agree with Rob. Security should be at the forefront of technology and the People and Independent Consumer Advocates should be doing something to protect the People from unscrupulous software companies and their lackeys in Government that would surreptitiously steal personal data no matter what face they put on it once exposed.
        vucliriel@...
      • Consumer Watchdog

        Elizabeth Warren would be perfect for that job.
        grampadave
      • laws vs technology

        Laws CAN keep up with technology. It's the lawmakers, senators, and congressmen that are personally profiting by business doing these kinds of things that refuse to stop it. They won't stop business from doing this. The US Patent office tried to manage intellectual property patents reasonably. Business pushed senators and congress so hard that congress ordered the patent office to process them, damn the consequences. This is all the result of unmitigated greed.
        dbeecher@...
    • What MANY don't understand is ...

      when they opt-in to online newspaper articles, Facebook Apps, etc., they are giving permission for that company to access their FB or GMail addressee contact info. Many are giving YOUR info indiscriminately to use. They JUST DON'T BOTHER TO READ the fine print!!
      fissi