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Posted : 2011-07-14 17:06
Updated : 2011-07-14 17:06

Location privacy suit

Apple must protect information of iPhone users

A court has put the brakes on the arbitrary use of location-based services (LBS) by smartphone makers and carriers. The court ordered Apple Korea to pay $943 to a litigant for its unauthorized tracking and storing of his location data. It accepted the litigant’s claim that Apple infringed upon his privacy. The ruling is likely to trigger a flood of similar lawsuits from customers of Apple, Google and Daum.

Lawyer Kim Hyeong-seok received 998,000 won last month from Apple Korea in accordance with the ruling by the Changwon District Court.

Apple Korea did not respond to the ruling. Following the decision, Apple Korea had refused to pay compensation. The court seized 1 million won from Apple Korea's bank account for payment of compensation to the complainant after deducting 2,000 won in remittance fees.

This means Apple Korea did not voluntarily pay the compensation.

The ruling may embolden other iPhone users to file a collective lawsuit. Kim said many of 3 million iPhone users in Korea are moving to file a collective legal action. He is ready to provide legal assistance to the victims of the iPhone's LBS.

It is not difficult to file a civil lawsuit in Korea of which the compensation demanded is less than 20 million won.

The ruling might have repercussions worldwide as more than 100 million people are iPhone users.

Apple's arbitrary storing of location information is now a global concern. It has stored all the information of iPhone users without their knowledge. Apple faces similar litigation in the U.S., Germany, Italy, France and Taiwan. The Korea Communications Commission has asked Apple to provide data on its LBS.

What is problematic is Apple's stored information is open to hackers as it is not encrypted.

LBS is a convenient tool to find someone or something, such as discovering the nearest cash machine, restaurant or a friend. It can track vehicles, parcels and objects. Personalized weather services and even location-based games are available through LBS. Other examples include step-by-step directions to any address and the receipt of alerts, including warning of a traffic jam.

An Ohio State University professor has introduced eShadow, enabling smartphone users to locate people on your contact list who are within a 45-meter radius of you at any moment. This can be used on Facebook. LBS makes smartphones smarter than before. The problem is ill-intentioned people may abuse LBS and information on a blog, Twitter or Facebook for criminal purposes. Reports of suicide related to social networking services have been on the rise.

Apple, Google, Daum and other LBS providers should institute a system of enabling users to have the option to block the information to outsiders or to refuse the receipt of messages or advertisements. They should be responsible for protection of customer data. Apple and other smartphone makers should make handsets smarter than before without intruding on individual privacy.

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