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Apple Ordered to Explain Document Production in Privacy Suit

Apple Ordered to Explain Document Production in Privacy Suit
A customer tries an Apple Inc. iPhone 5. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Apple Inc.’s lawyers appeared before a judge to explain how the company is complying with a court order to turn over evidence in a privacy lawsuit after the iPhone maker was scolded for “unacceptable” conduct.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal in San Jose, California, scheduled the hearing today because “significant questions remain” about whether Apple made a “reasonable effort to respond” to requests from the plaintiffs’ lawyers, he wrote in a filing.

Apple is accused in the lawsuit of improperly collecting data on the locations of customers through iPhones, even after the device’s geo-location feature was turned off, and sharing personal information with third parties.

Grewal told Cupertino, California-based Apple to submit a detailed account of how it collects and evaluates the documents it’s required to give the plaintiffs. The company was required to identify search terms it used, the dates of searches, individuals subject to the searches, and how many documents it turned up. Apple has produced more than 2,000 additional documents since Grewal’s March 6 order.

This month, Apple lost its bid to dismiss the case after U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh, who is handling the case with Grewal, said in a ruling that she was “disturbed” to learn that in its court filings seeking the dismissal, Apple relied on documents that it was required, and failed, to disclose to lawyers for the customers.

‘Unacceptable’ Conduct

Calling the company’s conduct “unacceptable,” Koh said “the court cannot rely on Apple’s representations about its compliance with its discovery obligations.”

Separate from the document requests, plaintiffs are also seeking permission to proceed with the lawsuit on a group basis. Apple argued class-action status should be denied because plaintiffs haven’t shown that any users had personal information collected without their consent, and as a result, can’t show they suffered any harm.

The case is In re Apple Inc. iPhone/iPad Application Consumer Privacy Litigation, 11-md-02250, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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