Social media companies reach $5.3m settlement in iOS contacts privacy lawsuit

Eight social media firms have agreed to a settlement of $5.3 million in response to a class action lawsuit that had accused them of breaching privacy by uploading users’ personal contact information on iOS devices, AppleInsider reports. Citing a report by Law360 (subscription required), the settlement agreement was filed earlier this week in a San Francisco federal court, proposing that Foodspotting, Foursquare, Gowalla, Instagram, Kik, Path, Twitter, and Yelp pay into a $5.3 million fund that will then be dispersed to qualifying claimants — anybody in the U.S. who used any of the identified apps between 2009 and 2012 — after attorney fees are paid, of course.
The lawsuit, first launched in 2012, was based on an iOS feature allowing third-party apps to allow users to access the system-wide contacts database, which several social media apps used to try to identify friends using the same online services. The suit alleged that the app developers violated user privacy in implementing this feature without clearly informing the users that their contacts would be uploaded to the companies’ servers. The social media firms argued that the feature was necessary in order for their “Find Friends” features to function correctly, and insisted that they had gained proper permission to do so. However, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar disagreed, ruling that the companies did not explicitly disclose the fact that the apps would actually be uploading contact information, also dismissing arguments that users provided permission simply by agreeing to standard terms of service and privacy policies, as these policies were not presented on-screen within the apps, but merely referenced by a web link.


Jesse Hollington was a Senior Editor at iLounge. He's written about Apple technology for nearly a decade and had been covering the industry since the early days of iLounge. In his role at iLounge, he provided daily news coverage, wrote and edited features and reviews, and was responsible for the overall quality of the site's content.