Lawsuit which cost Instagram, Twitter, and others $5.3 million is a warning to protect user privacy

A court settlement which cost eight software companies over five million dollars should be a warning to others to ensure they’re protecting user privacy.

The case was first brought forward in 2012 by consumers who sued eight social media and messaging companies over their use of an iOS feature called ‘Find Friends’ which uploaded their contact lists to company servers without explicit consent.

Instagram, Foursquare, Kik, Gowalla, Foodspotting, Yelp, Twitter, and Path will all now have to contribute $5.3 million to a settlement for affected consumers. The proceeds, set to be distributed via Amazon credits or cheque, are expected to be paid later this year.

App makers have been asked to inform eligible users by email or, in Twitter’s case, by a promoted tweet

The companies involved have fought the case for almost five years on the basis it was necessary to upload the contact lists in order for the feature to function. However, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar failed to see this as an excuse and said the companies should have been more upfront with how the data would be handled.

Out the original 18 defendants in the case, only two will remain part of it if the judge approves the settlement. The remaining two would be Apple and LinkedIn.

As with most cases like this, the compensation for each affected consumer is likely to be small as it affects such a large number. Over the specified time period, the number of involved apps, and their popularity, there was likely millions of people who downloaded the apps who will have to share the pot.

The app makers have been asked to inform eligible users by email or, in Twitter’s case, by a promoted tweet which includes the suggested handle of ‘@settlementnews’ to find out more information.

Save yourself a headache and ensure you inform users how you are protecting their privacy, or be explicit with how their data will be used to deliver services.

How do you feel about the app privacy lawsuit? Let us know in the comments.

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