SAN JOSE (CN) - Apple uses the "location service" function on iPhones to spy on customers and give their private information to third parties, including the federal government, a class action claims in Federal Court.
Lead plaintiff Chen Ma sued Apple on behalf of roughly 100 million iPhone users, claiming Apple violated their privacy.
"In or around September 2012, Apple released iPhone 4 which contains an iOS operating system software that enables iPhone 4 to track its users' whereabouts down to every minute, record the duration that users stay at any given geographical point, and periodically transmit these data stored on the users' devices to Apple's database for future references," according to the July 24 complaint.
The iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S also come pre-installed with the tracking software, the complaint states.
Ma, who has an iPhone 5S, claims that Apple did not inform its customers about the software, so it could track them without their knowledge or permission.
There is no way for iPhone users to turn the tracking service off "without substantially compromising significant number[s] of functionalities of iPhones," according to the lawsuit.
Ma says she found out about the software when China's Central Television (CCTV) launched an investigation into the location service feature.
When CCTV asked Apple about the feature, "Apple only stressed that it will not disclose to any third party the data concerning iPhone consumers' detailed daily whereabouts, but did not deny that these iPhones are indeed transmitting such highly sensitive and private consumers' data to its database to be stored for future reference," the complaint states.
But Ma claims that Apple has released consumers' information to third parties, including the U.S. government, which "has made more than 1,000 information requests to Apple."
Though she acknowledges that she does not know how Apple has responded to these requests for information, Ma claims that the release of customers' private information "has not been for a legitimate public concern."
She seeks class certification and an injunction preventing Apple from collecting and storing customers' private information without giving them prior notice, and from sending their data to a third party without their permission.
She also seeks compensatory and punitive damages for invasion of privacy.
She is represented by Adam Wang.