Preliminary OK for $5.3M Deal Over Mobile Apps Data Harvesting

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By Daniel R. Stoller

Facebook Inc.'s Instagram, Twitter Inc., Yelp! Inc. and other application developers have gained preliminary approval of a $5.3 million class settlement to end claims of unauthorized personal data harvesting ( Opperman v. Kong Techs., Inc. , 2017 BL 233518, N.D. Cal., Case No.13-cv-00453-JST, preliminary settlement approved 7/6/17 ).

The app developers, which also include Foodspotting Inc., Foursquare Labs Inc., Facebook’s Gowalla Inc., Kik Interactive Inc., and Kong Technologies Inc., allegedly failed to protect user information and allowed harvesting of personal information from Apple Inc. iPhone and iPad address books.

The class, which may reach up to seven million, sued Apple and the mobile app developers for alleged privacy violations. They asserted the applications “uploaded their address book data without their knowledge or consent, and that Apple aided and abetted them in that conduct,” Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California wrote in a July 6 order.

In the second amended complaint, the class asserted invasion of privacy tort law and California consumer protection statutory claims.

Under the terms of the settlement, the class will release the app companies and Apple from claims “in relation to the alleged misappropriation and misuse” of consumers’ "private address book data,” the order said. However, Apple still must face “misrepresentation and false advertising claims,” the court order said.

Apple is the largest technology company in the world with a $744,2 billion market capitalization, Bloomberg data show. Facebook, which owns Instagram and Gowalla, is the second largest internet media company in the world with a $431.3 billion market capitalization. Twitter is the 18th largest global internet media company with a $13.10 billion market capitalization, the Bloomberg data show.

A final approval hearing on the settlement is scheduled for Dec. 14.

Settlement Fund

The $5.3 million settlement fund will be paid out to consumers who downloaded one of the mobile applications through Apple’s App Store and activated app features to find friends or contacts. Attorney’s fees have not been decided.

Representatives for Yelp, Kik, and Facebook declined to comment to Bloomberg BNA on the settlement. Representatives for Apple and the other mobile app companies didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg BNA’s email requests for comment.

The class is represented by Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP; Phillips, Erlewine, Given & Carlin LLP; Edwards Law; The Law Offices of Carl F. Schwenker; and Gardy & Notis LLP. Apple is represented by Hogan Lovells LLP. Perkins Coie LLP, Greenberg Traurig LLP, and Morrison & Foerster LLP, among other firms, represented the mobile app companies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel R. Stoller in Washington at dstoller@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bna.com

For More Information

Full text of the preliminary settlement approval is available at http://src.bna.com/qzt.

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