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It appears the trouble with the bug that had Apple’s iOS devices logging location data for the devices and saving it, effectively tracking the movements of their owners, isn’t quite over for the iPhone and iPad maker.
A Korean class-action lawsuit is asking for quite a bit of money in damages from Apple over the location tracking “scandal,” as TechCrunch is reporting. According to a Bloomberg story, there are more than 27,000 Korean complainants on the suit; if Apple were to settle, each would receive a sum of about $930 U.S., or 1 million Korean won. That works out to just over $25,000 in the settlement.
That’s not too significant an amount, given that Apple just set a record with $28.57 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2011. But it does seem that a precedent may be forming, and that could be bad for Apple in the long run.
The location controversy started back in May, when it was widely revealed that an apparent glitch in Apple’s iOS software, the operating system that it runs on its iPhone and iPad, was collecting and storing GPS information each time that data was updated using a nearby cellular tower. Effectively, there was a folder in iOS that was unencrypted and had a running list of all the places that device had been, which made it a de facto tracker of the person who owned it.
Apple released a patch to fix the bug, but not before it was reported that U.S. law enforcement officials had been using the data in their investigations and without warrants. Apple testified before a Congressional committee about the data collection, which it maintains was a bug. Lots of apps use GPS data consistently, so gathering it makes sense. It was the long-term storage that was at issue.
According to the Bloomberg story, Apple recently was fined by the South Korean government over the location tracking troubles:
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.
That’s not very much money – around $2,700 U.S. – but add it to the class-action suit going on in South Korea right now and the two lawsuits Apple faces back here in the U.S., plus any action taken by Congress in response to the troubles, and Apple might see these small troubles amass into something larger. Precedents that allow Apple to be sued over this glitch would allow for a lot of users to potentially join in, and what could be a small settlement now in Korea might end up much larger in the future with a legal precedent behind it.