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Massachusetts lawsuit accuses Apple of misusing customers' personal info

Adding to Apple's mountain of legal conflict, a lawsuit filed this week in New England claims that Apple collected retail customers' zip codes in violation of state law and then profited from the sale of that information to third parties.

Apple's Boylston Street store in Boston

Plaintiffs Adam Christensen, Jeffrey Scolnick, and William Farrell claim that they were forced to provide their zip code when making credit card purchases at Apple retail stores in Massachusetts, a practice that the suit contends is illegal under the Massachusetts Unfair Trade Practices Act. That statute makes it unlawful to compel customers to provide personally identifiable information beyond that which is required by credit card issuers to verify the transaction.

The complaint goes on to allege that Apple not only collects this information, but then sells it to other companies for profit. As proof, the suit offers a passage from Apple's privacy policy that states "Apple may make certain personal information available to strategic partners that work with Apple to provide products and services, or that help Apple market to customers."

This has caused the plaintiffs harm, the suit says, in the following ways:

First, Plaintiffs and the Class have been injured because they have received unwanted marketing materials from Apple as a result of having provided their zip codes when using credit cards at Apple. Second, Plaintiffs and the Class have been injured by Apple's sale of Plaintiffs' and the Class' PII to third-parties, which was collected by Apple in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93 § 105(c). And third, Plaintiffs and the Class have been injured because Apple misappropriated their economically valuable PII [Personally Identifiable Information] without consideration.

Christensen, Scolnick, and Farrell seek certification as representatives of a class that would include anyone "from whom Apple requested and recorded personal identification information in conjunction with a credit card transaction occurring in Massachusetts."

On behalf of that class, the group is seeking damages of up to $75 per violation, interest on those damages, litigation expenses and attorneys' fees, and "such other and further relief as may be just and proper." The petition also asks for an injunction that would force Apple to stop collecting zip codes in the state.

The plaintiffs' law firm first contacted Apple with the complaint last April in a bid to settle without going to court. At the time, they sought damages of just $25 per violation, attorneys' fees, and "a reasonable incentive reward...for services as the proposed class representative."

Notably, the earlier complaint did not accuse Apple of profiting from the sale of the data to third parties. That charge was tacked on once the suit was filed, and the reason for its late addition is unknown.

Apple has not yet responded to the suit.