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Apple Sued by South Korean IPhone Users Over Location Data

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Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) -- A group of South Korean users of Apple Inc.’s iPhone sued the company in a local court, claiming it invaded their privacy by allowing the smartphone to collect location data without their consent.

About 27,000 people joined a class-action suit against Apple’s South Korean unit and headquarters, seeking 1 million won per person ($930) in damages, according to a notice posted online by Mirae Law, which represents the plaintiffs. The suit was filed in Changwon, south of Seoul, where the law firm is located.

Apple was fined by South Korea’s telecommunications regulator on Aug. 3 and ordered to encrypt location data of people using iPhones to address privacy concerns. The company also came under scrutiny of regulators around the world after an April report by publisher O’Reilly Radar said iPhones record information about users’ whereabouts, adding to legal disputes the company is involved in over patent infringements.

Apple was fined 3 million won for collecting such data even when some users turned off location-recognition features on their iPhones, the Korea Communications Commission said Aug. 3. Google Inc., which did not gather data in the same way, was not fined and only ordered to make the information unreadable, it said.

Earlier this year, Apple was sued in the U.S. by two iPhone and iPad users who claimed the devices secretly collected information on their movements.

“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,” Kim Hyeong Seok, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said by telephone before the suit was filed. “I concluded it was clearly illegal.”

Steve Park, a Seoul-based spokesman for Apple, declined to comment on the case.

Apple’s iOS 4 operating system for the iPhone and iPad tracks and stores the movements of people using the devices, according to a report published in April by O’Reilly Media, a Sebastopol, California-based publisher that organizes technology trade conferences.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jun Yang in Seoul at jyang180@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net.

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