Apple Collecting User Data Despite Privacy Setting: Is iPhone's “Do Not Track” Misleading?

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Apple Collecting User Data Despite Privacy Setting, Alleges Lawsuit

Apple claims it stands firm in protecting user privacy and respects its users' choice to protect their data. However, the company's own safeguards, which claim to shield user data, aren't doing what they promise, claims a new lawsuit. Let's see why Apple's claims about respecting user privacy are being challenged, and if the "Do Not Track" feature could falter in the case of "stock apps".

 

Stock iPhone Apps Bypass "Do Not Track"?

Apple has a dedicated "App Tracking Transparency" subroutine which offers a simple-to-use "Do To Track" option to iPhone users. Selecting the option is supposed to block an app's ability to track user activity and collect analytics data. The collected data usually helps finetune or customize ads served to the user.

Apple's own apps, which are referred to as "Stock Apps", aren't governed by these protocols, and can easily continue collecting user data and track them across apps and services, claims a lawsuit filed by New York resident Elliot Libman.

Elliot alleged that even if users accept and use Apple's own guidelines on privacy settings, "Apple nevertheless continues to record consumers' app usage, app browsing communications, and personal information in its proprietary Apple apps, including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, and Stocks."

The lawsuit alleges that Apple tracks users' data via stock iPhone apps. In simple words, specifically selecting or opting for the Do Not Track setting may have no impact on the stock iPhone apps.

Is Apple Deliberately Ignoring Users' Preference For Privacy?

A recently conducted study by security researchers at Mysk seems to imply that user privacy options in iOS do nothing to stop Apple from tracking usage in stock apps. Simply put, Apple could be intentionally ignoring users' preferences and privacy settings where its own apps are concerned.

If the claims are proven right, it would mean the App Tracking Transparency or ATT has no jurisdiction over the default apps Apple bundles with every iPhone. Moreover, the Do Not Track setting cannot prevent users' iPhones from sharing device analytics data or restrict apps from tracking data via the preinstalled apps.

 

Needless to mention, these are serious allegations and go completely against Apple's claimed approach toward user privacy. The company has previously fought with tech giants such as Facebook over these very concerns.

It is important to note that the lawsuit has merely claimed Apple grants preinstalled apps the freedom to ignore the Do Not Track setting. The research on which the lawsuit is based has included some evidence. However, these claims and the evidence would be cross-examined and challenged by Apple. Moreover, the claims would have to be corroborated by other researchers and security experts.

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