On March 24, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar determined that the plaintiffs in a privacy class action against Apple, Inc. (Apple) and Twitter Inc. (Twitter) sufficiently alleged that they relied on Apple’s advertisements boasting the security of its mobile devices, and that Twitter and other mobile app developers invaded their privacy by collecting their contacts from their mobile devices without consumer knowledge. Attorney for the plaintiffs stated, “It’s been a very hard-fought case, and we’re glad that we’re finally able to move into discovery phase. It’s a good day for privacy, and for users of Apple products and the Internet in general.”
Judge Tigar applied a six-part test commonly used in tobacco advertisement cases to determine whether Apple’s misrepresentations met the criteria necessary for the class action to proceed. Judge Tigar determined that the plaintiffs can indeed make these fraud-based allegations based on extensive, long-term advertising campaigns without necessarily identifying specific statements made by Apple that were misleading.
Twitter and other mobile app developers asked Judge Tigar to dismiss the allegations that they invaded consumers’ privacy by accessing contacts on Apple devices, but the Court rejected Twitter’s plea and concluded that while consumers may have been aware that certain mobile apps would require access to their personal contacts in order to function properly, these plaintiffs did not know that the information would be used in unauthorized ways. The key to complying with privacy laws and steering clear of the courtroom seems to be transparency with the consumer.