Eight app makers have agreed to settle a California class action accusing them of accessing the address books of Apple customers without permission.
Among them are Twitter, Yelp, and Instagram applications (“app”) companies who asked a federal judge to sign off on a $5.3 million preliminary settlement deal that would be a means to resolve the mobile app privacy class action lawsuit.
Terms of the Settlement
Under the terms of the settlement, which was filed in San Francisco federal court, the companies will contribute $5.3 million to a payment pot for consumers. The proceeds, which will be distributed via Amazon.com credits or by check, are likely to be paid late this year, according to Fortune.com.
Provided the U.S. District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar agrees, the settlement would satisfy claims in a consolidated class action lawsuit that alleged the companies violated Apple users’ privacy when accessing the apps through their mobile operating system.
“The Settlement Agreement falls well within the ‘range of reasonableness’ applicable at the preliminary approval stage. The app defendants deny that they are liable or that any class member was harmed, but do not oppose this motion and will cooperate in the settlement process,” the app companies state in their motion.
The proposed payments are part of a privacy lawsuit that began in 2012 when consumers sued a group of social media and messaging companies, including Apple, over their use of an iOS (iPhone Operating System) feature called “Find Friends.” As the name implies, “Find Friends” lets consumers quickly discover if any of their contacts are using the app as well. But according to the users in the case, the app makers violated their privacy by failing to inform them that “Find Friends” would transfer user’s contact lists to company servers.
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Consolidated Class Action
The consolidated class action claimed that the app companies designed their programs to access the personal information of Apple users under the iOS system without users’ permission or knowledge. The amount of $5.3 million agreement would settle claims for invasion of privacy and intrusion against Yelp, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, Foodspotting, Gowalla, Kik Interactive, and Kong Technologies, previously known as Path.
“The settlement agreement is the product of protracted and highly adversarial litigation, spanning five years and reflected in the case’s procedural history before the court, together with extensive and complex negotiations between and among the parties and their experienced and informed counsel,” maintain the app companies in their motion.
Even though the app companies are seeking settlement, the computer company Apple still faces claims for misrepresentation under the consolidated class action.
Yelp had disagreed and said the case should be dismissed, but Judge Tigar denied the company’s motion remarking that a jury should decide the facts.
“While plaintiffs defeated Yelp’s ‘bell-weather’ summary judgment motion, liability remains highly disputed in the case,” according to the app developers in their motion backing the settlement agreement.
In the class action, only one proposed class has been certified. Judge Tigar last summer certified a class against Path, now Kong Technologies, for a claim for invasion of privacy. Provided it is approved, the settlement agreement will apply to almost seven million users who downloaded iOS versions of the apps for their Apple devices. The users must also have activated the “Add Friends,” “Find Friends” or Suggested Friends” feature in the app they downloaded to be a class member. The proposed class period is between 2009 and 2012.
The companies have fought the lawsuit for years, complaining in part that storing users’ contact lists on the server was necessary for the “Find Friends” tool to function. But, Judge Tigar said the firms should have been more explicit about what they were doing, reports Fortune.com.
The settlement calls for the app makers to inform eligible users by email or, in Twitter’s case, by a promoted tweet with the suggested handle of “@settlementnews.”
The Mobile App Privacy Class Action lawsuit is in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Legal Information and Advice
If you or someone you know has been affected by an alleged invasion of privacy related to app companies, you may be eligible for valuable compensation. Parker Waichman LLP personal injury lawyers offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. We urge you to contact our attorneys at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).