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Apple sued by 27,000 South Korean iPhone owners over location tracking

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A group of nearly 27,000 South Koreans is suing Apple for £15.8 million over what they claim are privacy violations from the collection of iPhone user location information.

Each person in the suit is seeking one million won (£568) in damages, Kim Hyeong-seok, one of their attorneys, announced today.

He said they are targeting Apple and its South Korean unit to ‘protect privacy’ rights.

Apple’s spokesman in Seoul declined to comment.

Apple has faced complaints and criticisms since it revealed in April that its iPhones store the locations of nearby mobile phone towers and wi-fi hot spots for up to a year.

Such data can be used to create a rough map of the device owner’s movements.

Apple also revealed that a software bug caused iPhones to continue to send anonymous location data to the company’s servers even when location services on the device were turned off.

The company has said it will no longer store the data on phones for more than seven days, will encrypt the data and will stop backing up the files to user computers. It also has fixed the bug with a free software update.

Mr Kim, the lawyer, took Apple to court earlier this year over iPhone privacy and was awarded one million won.

He said he expected the first hearing in the new case to take place in October or November.

If the court in the southern city of Changwon rules in favour of the plaintiffs, the total award would come to about 27.6 billion won (£15.6million).

Apple – the most valuable company in the U.S. – earned $7.31billion (£4.45billion) in its fiscal third quarter.

Mr Kim said that the decision to seek damages of only one million won per person reflects that South Korean courts do not generally award amounts as high as their counterparts in the U.S.

He said 26,691 plaintiffs were listed in the civil suit filed earlier today. Another 921 are minors and lawyers need to obtain the consent of their parents before they can join, Mr Kim said. He expects that to take about two weeks.

South Korea’s communications regulator earlier this month ordered Apple’s local operation to pay a three million won (£1,700) fine for what it said were violations of the country’s location information laws.


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