South Korean iPhone tracking suit has 27,000 plaintiffs


Earlier this year, South Korean lawyer Kim Hyeong-seok won 1 million won (about $US945) in a lawsuit over iOS 4’s clandestine location tracking behavior; South Korean regulators also ordered Apple pay a fine for breaking the country’s information privacy laws. Now, he’s back, and he’s brought 27,000 of his closest friends along for the ride: Apple is now facing a new lawsuit over iOS 4 location tracking, with each plaintiff seeking 1 million won of their own.

The suit was filed at the law firm’s location in Changwon, south of Seoul. The new set of plaintiffs includes 26,691 adults and over 900 minors who need to obtain parental permission to participate in the suit. If the plaintiffs get their demands, the suit could cost Apple more than $25 million in damages.

The suit comes from a controversial behavior in iOS devices that, according to Apple, existed only to gather data about Wi-Fi hotspots and cell phone towers in particular areas in an effort to speed up assisted GPS services. However, in April Apple admitted that the devices were collecting the location information even when users had turned off location features, and was collecting way too much of it: while the feature was only intended to keep about a week’s worth of data, iOS devices were storing all collected location data—which could be used to pretty effectively monitor an iPhone or iPad’s movement.

Apple quickly released an iOS update that reduced the amount of location information stored on iOS devices, and no longer synced that information back to users’ host computers. Users can also successfully disable location services.

While the location tracking issue seems to have largest faded from the spotlight in western countries, Kim Hyeong-seok takes the issue very seriously—and bringing some 27,000 new plaintiffs to the table is sure to get Apple’s attention. It may also serve as a wake-up call to other mobile technology companies that privacy and location data are not to be treated lightly.

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