Apple has been fined $11M for misuse of customer data in Italy


Apple has been fined €10M ($11.3M) in Italy for what competition authorities say is the misuse of customer data. Google has been fined the same amount for the same thing.

It follows a $225M fine in the same country earlier this week for price fixing between Apple and Amazon …

The fine was announced by the Italian competition regulator AGCM. It says that when a consumer creates an Apple ID, the iPhone maker doesn’t reveal that their personal data will be used by Apple to market its own services, as well as promote apps, music, and books.

The Authority ascertained two violations of the Consumer Code, one due to lack of information and another due to aggressive practices regarding the acquisition and use of consumer data

The Italian Antitrust Authority closed two investigations against Google Ireland Ltd. and Apple Distribution International Ltd., sanctioning both of 10 million euros, that is, for the maximum permitted according to current legislation. The Antitrust has ascertained for each company two violations of the Consumer Code, one due to lack of information and another due to aggressive practices related to the acquisition and use of consumer data for commercial purposes […]

Apple collects, profiles and uses user data for commercial purposes through the use of its devices and services. Therefore, even without proceeding to any transfer of data to third parties, Apple directly exploits the economic value through a promotional activity to increase the sale of its products and / or those of third parties through its commercial platforms App Store, iTunes Store and Apple Books […]

Apple , both in the phase of creating the Apple ID and on the occasion of accessing the Apple Stores (App Store, iTunes Store and Apple Books), does not immediately and explicitly provide the user with any indication on the collection and use of your data for commercial purposes, emphasizing only that data collection is necessary to improve the consumer experience and use of services.

This part of the ruling seems odd, since Apple’s privacy policy explicitly says that data will be used for marketing purposes (our emphasis):

Apple uses personal data to power our services, to process your transactions, to communicate with you, for security and fraud prevention, and to comply with law […]

Communicate with You. To respond to communications, reach out to you about your transactions or account, market our products and services, provide other relevant information, or request information or feedback.

Additionally, the AGCM says the Cupertino company doesn’t allow consumers to choose how their data will be used – for example, declining permission for marketing messages.

The promotional activity is based on a method of acquiring consent to the use of user data for commercial purposes without providing the consumer with the possibility of a prior and express choice on sharing their data. This acquisition architecture, prepared by Apple, does not make it possible to exercise one’s will on the use of one’s data for commercial purposes. Therefore, the consumer is conditioned in the choice of consumption and undergoes the transfer of personal information, which Apple can dispose of for its own promotional purposes carried out in different ways.

The fine is pocket change to Apple, but is the maximum sum permitted under the law.

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment, and will update with any response.

Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

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