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Wheaton v. Apple Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California

October 24, 2019

LEIGH WHEATON; JILL PAUL; and TREVOR PAUL, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
APPLE INC., Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

          WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         In this putative class action, plaintiffs bring claims under Rhode Island and Michigan law for selling, renting, transmitting, or disclosing a customer's information without consent. Defendant moves to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). This order Grants defendant's motion to dismiss.

         STATEMENT

         Defendant Apple Inc. is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Cupertino, California. One of Apple's services is selling and distributing digital music via its iTunes Store mobile application. The iTunes Store application comes pre-installed on customers' iPhones. An Apple customer can purchase music from the iTunes store. The music is then stored in their device's Apple Music libraries. A customer's personal listening information, found in their Apple Music libraries, includes their full name and home address along with genres and in some cases, the specific music titles they purchased (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 16).

         Plaintiff Leigh Wheaton is a citizen and resident of Rhode Island. Plaintiffs Jill Paul and Trevor Paul are citizens and residents of Michigan. Over the past three years, plaintiffs all purchased music from Apple via its iTunes Store. Plaintiffs allege that during this time, without their notice and consent, Apple sold, rented, transmitted, and disclosed their personal listening information to third parties. Plaintiffs allege that Apple disclosed this information to two groups: (1) data brokers, data appenders, data aggregators, data miners, and other third parties, who then supplemented the personal listening information with additional sensitive personal information such as, age, gender, education, household income, purchasing habits; and (2) iOS mobile application developers, who in turn sold and disclosed the information to other third parties.

         The complaint categorizes the purported disclosures to iOS mobile application developers into three methods: (1) developers access to metadata; (2) tokens; and (3) gifting functionality. Under the first method, plaintiffs allege developers could extract customers' iTunes music libraries metadata and link customers' individual identities to the data. Under the second method, plaintiffs contend Apple allowed developers to readily access customers' “tokens, ” which could be associated with personally identifying information. Under the third method, plaintiffs argue that Apple disclosed personal listening information to other customers. Specifically, when a customer attempted to gift a song to another customer, iTunes would tell the purchaser if the recipient had already purchased the song, thereby revealing the recipient's name and earlier music selection (Compl. ¶¶ 45-83).

         As a result of Apple's alleged failure to protect customers' private information, plaintiffs claim (1) overpayment; (2) loss of value of their personal listening information; (3) unwarranted junk mail and telephone solicitations; and (4) risk of identity theft (Compl. ¶¶ 44, 68, 117-19, 138-42).

         Based on the allegations, plaintiffs bring three claims against Apple: (1) violation of Rhode Island's Video, Audio, and Publication Rentals Privacy Act; (2) violation of Michigan's Preservation of Personal Privacy Act; and (3) unjust enrichment (Compl. ¶¶ 98-154). Apple moves to dismiss this complaint in full. This order follows full briefing and oral argument (Dkt. Nos. 37, 50, 51).

         ANALYSIS

         Apple moves to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint on the grounds that plaintiffs do not allege damages under the Michigan state law as recently amended, lack standing under Rule 12(b)(1), and fail to state their claims under Rule 12(b)(6).

         1. State Statute Application.

         Plaintiffs' complaint alleges violations of two state statutes: the Rhode Island Video, Audio, and Publication Rentals Privacy Act and the Michigan Preservation of Personal Privacy Act. RIVRPA states in pertinent part:

It shall be unlawful for any person to reveal, transmit, publish, or disseminate in any manner, any records which would identify the names and addresses of individuals with the titles or nature of video films, records, cassettes, or the like, which they purchased, leased, rented, or borrowed, from libraries, book stores, video stores, or ...

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