The more successful Apple has become, the more it has been subject of lawsuits by other companies in the smartphone industry (see the infographic below). But lawsuits from rivals are not the only ones Apple needs to watch out for. An iPhone owner has sued Apple over ads appearing in mobile ads (and the tracking mechanism behind them). While many iPhone owners do not mind sharing information with the world, people still want to be in control of the data that they share through apps. As reported by BusinessWeek:
Some apps are also selling additional information to ad networks, including usersí location, age, gender, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation and political views
Jonathan Lalo of LA County alleges that Pandora sent age, gender, location, and other information to ad networks. Apparently, Paper Toss sends user information to ad companies as well. Considering that some of this activity happens without users’ consent, this is going to be a can of worms for Apple to deal with.
The lawsuit alleges that the transmission of personal information is a violation of federal computer fraud and privacy laws. At this point, it is not clear how Apple can address this issue. Most of the information shared with ad networks are used to help advertisers come up with more relevant ads on mobile devices such as iPhone. Without that information, ads could become less targeted and as such far less valuable for advertisers. While Apple does allow users to opt out of sharing certain information with ad networks, its policy is far from being bulletproof (especially when it comes to 3rd party ad networks).
Apple may be able to deal with this issue for now by giving iDevice owners even more control on what they do not want to share with ad networks. Will that satisfy everyone? Most likely not.