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Lawsuit targets mobile apps for 'stealing'

March 14, 2012 at 2:31 PM

AUSTIN, Texas, March 14 (UPI) -- A lawsuit in Texas alleges mobile apps routinely steal names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses from millions of users without their knowledge or consent.

In the class-action filing in U.S. District Court in Travis County, attorneys claim almost 20 apps, including Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp and Twitter violate policies put in place by distributors such as Apple's App Store, Amazon's Appstore and Google Play, formerly known as the Android Market, the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman reported Tuesday.

The suit alleges invasion of privacy, intentional interception, disclosure or use of wire or electronic communication, breach of computer security, negligence, unjust enrichment and racketeering.

"We're making some fairly serious allegations against the big boys," Jeff Edwards, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said.

"We're saying, 'Hey, you took something that didn't belong to you, and you're making a profit off it,'" he said, citing an industry publication that estimated such information could be sold for 60 cents to several dollars for each contact to advertisers and other parties.

The suit follows a recent article in The New York Times headlined "Mobile Apps Take Data Without Permission."

"The address book in smartphones -- where some of the user's most personal data is carried -- is free for app developers to take at will, often without the phone owner's knowledge," The New York Times reported.

"If these reports are accurate, they're taking something fundamental and private, and they shouldn't be," Edwards said. "The idea that you play a video game and your address book is given away is really disconcerting.'

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