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SKoreans sue Apple over iPhone user information

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A group of some 27,000 South Koreans is

suing Apple for $26 million for what they claim are privacy

violations from the collection of iPhone user location

information.

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Each person in the suit is seeking 1 million won ($932) in damages,

Kim Hyeong-seok, one of their attorneys, said Wednesday. He said

they are targeting Apple Inc. and its South Korean unit to “protect

privacy” rights.

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Apple spokesman Steve Park in Seoul declined to comment.

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Apple has faced complaints and criticisms since it said in April

that its iPhones were storing locations of nearby cellphone 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.

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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.

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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.

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Kim, the lawyer, took Apple to court earlier this year over iPhone

privacy and was awarded 1 million won.

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The Korea Communications Commission, South Korea’s communications

regulator, earlier this month ordered Apple’s local operation to

pay a 3 million won fine for what it said were violations of the

country’s location information laws.

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Oh Byoung-cheol, a professor of information technology law at

Seoul’s Yonsei University law school, said that the KCC ruling is

likely to bolster the plaintiffs’ allegations of illegality by

Apple and that could have an impact on possible cases in other

countries.

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But any South Korean court decision on damages is unlikely to have

much effect elsewhere given differences in international tort law,

he said.

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South Korean courts “tend to be stingy with damages for mental

suffering,” he said.

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If the court in the southern city of Changwon rules in favor of the

plaintiffs, the total award could come to about 27.6 billion won

($25.7 million). Cupertino, California-based Apple – the most

valuable company in the United States – earned $7.31 billion in its

fiscal third quarter.

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Kim said he expected the first hearing in the new case to take

place in October or November.

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Jung Ogk-taek, an official at the Changwon District Court, said it

was not clear how much time would be needed to reach a

verdict.

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Kim said 26,691 plaintiffs were listed in the civil suit filed

Wednesday. Another 921 are minors and lawyers need to obtain the

consent of their parents before they can join, Kim said. He expects

that to take about two weeks.

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Lawyers are soliciting more participants between now and the end of

this month to join the case.

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Associated Press writer Jiyoung Won contributed to this

report.

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