South Korea class-action suit against Apple draws 17,000 (and counting)

Plaintiffs claim 'emotional distress' over iPhone location tracking

A class-action lawsuit launched by an attorney in South Korea against Apple has drawn more than 17,000 iPhone users, according to Korea JoongAng Daily.

Plaintiffs are demanding that Apple pay damages for inflicting emotional distress on them through the smartphone's controversial location tracking feature.

(Also see: iPhone location tracking draws fire, shrugs)

The lawyer who initiated the suit, Kim Hyeong-seok, has created a website for South Korean iPhone users to join in the fun.

Kim claims that 10,000 of the 17,000 co-plaintiffs already have paid the approximately $16 in court costs each to join the action. In a nice bit of irony, Kim says they paid through their iPhones!

Kim says he plans to begin filing the initial volley of litigation at the end of the month, giving other potential plaintiffs another two weeks to sign up. Given that South Korea has about 3 million users of iPhones and iPads, that 17,000 figure could grow exponentially.

According to the newspaper, Apple Korea recently settled an individual location-tracking lawsuit with Kim for 1 million won, or $945. I bet they thought that was the end of it!

Kim reportedly is seeking the same amount in damages for each plaintiff in the class-action suit. So if 30,000 South Korean iPhone users end up joining the action and win the case, that would end up costing Apple Korea more than $28 million.

Since its debut in South Korea in November 2009, the iPhone 3 has drawn complaints from users about poor customer service and dropped calls.

Apparently Apple's legendary Reality Distortion Field doesn't extend to the Korean Peninsula.

The location tracking controversy first erupted in April, when two researchers discovered that iPhones and iPads were tracking the locations of their owners and storing the information in unencrypted files. Privacy advocates and legislators in the U.S. expressed concerns that, should an iPhone user's device be lost or seized by authorities, his or her movements could be reconstructed.

For its part, Apple has denied tracking iPhone users, arguing that the data collected in the unencrypted file is merely information on cell tower and Wi-Fi network locations.

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