Monday, February 04, 2013

Apple v. Superior Court (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Feb. 4, 2013)

The question is whether an online retailer -- here, Apple, at its iTune store -- can collect telephone numbers in connection with credit card sales.  There's a specific statute that says you can't do that in California.  But Apple says that the statute doesn't apply to online credit card transactions, and only applies to physical credit card transactions.

Plaintiff responds that that doesn't make any sense.  That collecting phone numbers is unnecessary in both types of transactions, and that these transactions equally present the dangers that prompted the passage of the statute:  namely, the retail collection of unnecessary data for marketing purposes.  The statute is deliberately broad, plaintiff says, and nothing in the statute exempts online sales.  Plus, the Legislature passed an amendment to the statute in 2011 that permitted pay-at-the-pump gas stations to collect ZIP codes, and the legislative history of that statute expressly talked about how the existing statute applied to online and brick-and-mortar retailers alike.

Its' a close opinion.  4-3.  Justice Liu writes the majority opinion.  One that's joined by, among others, the Chief Justice, Cantil-Sakauye.

They agree with Apple.  The privacy statute doesn't apply to online retailers.