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Summary:

Apple could face a number of payouts in South Korea based on its methods of iPhone location information collection and storage. A lawyer who won himself one million South Korean won ($936 U.S.) based on the issue is now looking to help others cash in.

location-services-feature

Apple could face a number of payouts in South Korea based on its methods of iPhone location information collection and storage. The company ran into trouble when researchers discovered iPhones were maintaining a local, unencrypted database of nearby cell towers earlier this year, and a South Korean lawyer who won himself one million South Korean won ($936 U.S.) based on the issue is now looking to help others cash in.

The lawyer in question, Kim Hyung-suk, won the decision in South Korean court in May, and the funds were reportedly withdrawn from Apple Korea’s bank account by the court after the company refused to voluntarily comply. Kim now has 27,000 signatures on a web-based petition seeking co-complainants for a class-action suit in South Korea designed to “protect privacy” rights, according to the AP. Of that number, 26,691 are now listed as plaintiffs in the civil suit filed by Kim’s firm on Wednesday, and 921 are minors and are seeking parental consent before being added to the list.

The iPhone’s locally stored database of nearby cell towers, along with a bug that continued to gather location information even with location services turned off resulted in both Kim’s successful suit and a three-million-won fine ($2,808 U.S.) from the South Korean communications regulator earlier this month. Apple has since released a software update that resolves the issues cited by Kim and security researchers who discovered the problem.

Even with nearly 27,000 thousand plaintiffs, the total cost of a ruling against Apple would only amount to around $24.6 million, which is barely a dent in the company’s $75.9 billion in cash reserves. But Apple is already facing multiple lawsuits in the U.S., too, and it probably doesn’t want this sort of thing to catch on.

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  1. Michael W. Perry Thursday, August 18, 2011

    In a sick sort of way, it feels good to know that lawyers and courts in Korea can be as greedy and stupid as our own. I checked that location data on my iPhone. The locations were places I’d never been, and hence probably cell towers I’d triggered while driving. Someone who stole my iPhone could discover that I’d triggered cell towers in NW Seattle. Yawn. I LIVE in NW Seattle.

    I also fail to see why hit-and-miss tower location data that’s solely on an iPhone in my possession is a worse security breach than identical and far more complete data being taken 24×7 by my cell phone company, particularly since the latter is stored on their own servers. Apple doesn’t have any way of knowing where I am. T-Mobile does.

    South Korea should be careful. Steve Jobs has a mean streak and, with Apple awash in cash, they could easily shift a lucrative manufacturing contract to some other country. A few tens of millions in ‘settlements’ could result in a billion dollars or more in manufacturing orders going elsewhere.

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