The flap over iPhone location tracking led to some grandstanding in Congress and a few lawsuits by users in the United States over privacy concerns, but now nearly 27,000 South Koreans are suing Apple for privacy violations.
Kim Hyeong-seok, one of the lawyers in the case, sued Apple himself over iPhone privacy violations and was awarded $932, a figure that's the same amount each of the plaintiff is now seeking in the class-action suit.
The case stems from the revelations in April that iPhones were tracking and storing data about users' movements and sending the anonymous information to Apple servers, even when location services were turned off on a device. Apple later claimed that last part was a "software bug," which was later fixed via an update.
Apple declined to comment on the Korean case. The company has said it no longer stores the location data on devices for more than a week and now encrypts the information.
Still, the odds that Apple will beat the rap are not good. Its Korean operation has already been fined about $3,000 for violating location information laws by the Korean Communications Commission. It's an amount that's even more laughable than the threat of paying out $25 million to the 26,691 plaintiffs in the group case, given the fact that Apple recently surpassed ExxonMobil to become the most valuable American company.
Courts in Korea are known for being stingy about awarding damages, but a victory for the plaintiffs could spell bigger trouble for the company in the U.S., where it could embolden more plaintiffs and politicians to go after Apple.
A class-action lawsuit in Europe or North America would likely be far more costly, and new legislation and litigation could possibly be swayed by growing suspicion of Apple.
Hearings in the Korean case are expected to begin in October or November.