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Germans slam Apple data snooping

by on08 May 2013

Permission too broad

Jobs’ Mob is in hot water in Germany for asking for users’ broad, overall consent in its privacy policy. The Regional Court of Berlin has ruled that Apple is in breach of data protection laws, according to a verdict published by the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV).

The VZBV demanded in 2011 that Apple Sales International should stop using unfair contractual clauses in its privacy policy as posted on its German website. Helke Heidemann-Peuser, a lawyer and head of the VZBV’s legal enforcement section said that after the warning, Apple committed to change five of those clauses, but this was not enough. The VZBV sued and Apple tried to change two more of the clauses but was still sued over the last eight.

Apple’s German privacy policy is similar to the one used in the US. Apple insist that when someone contacts Apple and its affiliates, they may share information about that person with each other. Apple also states that this information may be combined with other information to provide and improve products, services, content and advertising. The court said this clause violates the law because customers are unaware which data is used and to what extend.

Another problematic clause gives Apple the right to collect the information someone provides about friends and family such as name, mailing address, email address and phone number when someone sends a gift certificate or products or invites others to join a user on an Apple forum. Apple also states that it may collect, use and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of a users’ Apple computer or device, in order to provide location based services like advertising on Apple products.

The data, as collected, is anonymous, according to Apple’s policy. However, when location-based services are used, the data can always be traced back to an individual. Apple now needs to change all these clauses and be a bit less oppressive to its users. Jobs’ Mob has not yet said if it will appeal.

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