Apple Faces 27,000-Strong South Korean Lawsuit

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A class action lawsuit has been filed against Apple in South Korea, for violations of privacy

Apple is facing a class-action lawsuit from a group of 27,000 South Koreans, who claim the company invaded their privacy by tracking their movements via their iPhones.

In May, lawyer Kim Hyeong-seok, successfully bought legal action against Apple and was awarded 1 million won (£563) in compensation. His law firm, Mirae Law, is now acting on behalf of the 27,000 South Koreans seeking the same amount in compensation in the class-action lawsuit – totalling roughly £15.2 million.

“I’m an iPhone user myself, so when I first heard about this in the media, I reviewed the legality of the matter based on Korean law,” said Hyeong-seok. “I concluded it was clearly illegal.”

The suit accuses Apple of breaching articles 10 and 17 of the constitution, which ensure pursuit of happiness and protection of privacy, and the South Korean law on protection of location data. A separate suit involving another 921 people will be filed soon, according to Mirae Law.

Apple has declined to comment on the matter.

‘Locationgate’

Apple’s practice of tracking customers’ locations was exposed by security researchers Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan back in April. They claimed to have discovered that Apple was recording the positions of devices running iOS 4 in a “hidden file” on iPhones and iPads.

“The file is unencrypted and unprotected, and it is on any machine you’ve synched with your iOS device,” the pair wrote in a post on the O’Reilly Radar website. “It can also be easily accessed on the device itself if it falls into the wrong hands. Anybody with access to this file knows where you’ve been over the last year, since iOS 4 was released.”

Apple blamed the problem on a location-tracking “bug” in its iOS operating system, insisting that the company was not tracking its users. An iOS update was issued in May, containing “changes to the iOS crowd-sourced location database cache,” which included reducing in the size of the cache, deleting the cache whenever location services are turned off, and stopping the cache from backing up to iTunes.

In spite of the move, Apple’s privacy practices have come under severe scrutiny from various regulators and lawmakers. US politician Jay Inslee called the revelation “disturbing”, and urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the matter in order to “determine the size and scope” of the issue.

South Korea’s communications regulator said in early August it would fine Apple’s local operation 3 million won (£1,700) for violating the country’s location information laws.

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