Civil Litigation Legal Topics

The i’s Are Watching You

Just days after the Apple tracking scandal broke, two Apple customers have sued the technology giant over its recording of location data on iPhones and iPads. The complaint (.pdf)  filed in federal court in Florida alleges violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

For most appalled Apple customers, this is the first they are hearing of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) (18 USC §1030). Here’s a quick overview: The CFAA addresses computer crimes such as hacking. It defines a series of computer-related crimes, including intentionally accessing a computer without authorization (or exceeding authorized access) and thereby obtaining confidential information or anything of value, perpetrating a fraud, or causing other damage. See 18 USC §1030(a).

In addition to criminal penalties, the statute creates a private right of civil action for anyone who suffers damages or loss from a violation of the Act. See 18 USC §1030(g).

As reported by the ABA Journal, the Florida suit states that iPhone and iPad users didn’t know about the tracking and can’t prevent the data collection by disabling their global positioning systems. Given the huge number of Apple customers, it is unsurprising that the action seeks class-action status.

Interest in this issue is growing among governmental authorities too. The Los Angeles Times technology blog reports that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has requested meetings with both Apple and Google over storage of location data on iPhones, iPads and Google Android smartphones. The technology blog also reports that senators from Minnesota and Massachusetts have made similar requests and privacy regulators in France, Italy, and South Korea are looking into the matter.

For more information on the CFAA, including remedies and cases decided under it, turn to CEB’s Internet Law and Practice in California, §§18.3-18.7A and Privacy Compliance and Litigation in California, §§4.18-4.21.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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