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Judge: We can't rely on what Apple tells court in privacy suit

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal orders Apple to show the court what it's doing to produce documents in a suit related to the gathering of location-tracking data in iOS.

Apple's CEO Tim Cook unveiling the iPhone 5. James Martin/CNET
Apple must detail for a court what it's doing to produce documents in a privacy suit, a judge ruled, saying he has already "refereed" this particular dispute and that he can no longer believe what the company tells him.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal issued the order March 6 after the plaintiffs in the case accused Apple of withholding documents it had been ordered to turn over. He noted that while the plaintiffs "presented to the court little more than suspicions that Apple has withheld responsive documents," Apple provided enough evidence on its own to indicate to the court that it hasn't complied with the order. He added that Apple's outside counsel "admitted as much" at a March 5 hearing.

"In light of Apple's performance in this case, the court cannot rely on its representations that this time it really has or will produce all responsive documents," Grewal wrote. "Apple now must show the court that it has complied with its discovery obligations."

Apple has until 5 p.m. today to provide the court with a detailed account of what it's doing to gather and examine the documents. It then has until March 18 to provide unredacted copies of certain documents to the plaintiffs.

We've contacted Apple and will update the report when we hear back.

The suit, filed in 2011,accuses Apple of violating privacy laws by keeping a log of user locations via iPhone even if customers had turned off geolocation capabilities. Apple has fought against providing certain documents that it says contain sensitive information that could harm the company and millions of its customers if it fell into the wrong hands.

The plaintiffs said in a motion earlier this week that they were "shocked to learn that Apple failed to review the files of senior executives, such as Steve Jobs." Apple's lawyers said that not providing documents from Jobs and other top executives was a mistake. They noted in a court filing from earlier this week that Apple had discovered it didn't correctly search senior executives' files and that it had provided more documents to the plaintiffs after making the discovery. S. Ashlie Beringer, one of Apple's lawyers, wrote:

While Apple and its counsel do not believe that any of the documents produced this week impact the outcome of the pending class certification and summary judgment motions, they recognize that they should have discovered and produced these documents sooner, and have advised plaintiffs that they do not oppose the filing of any supplemental briefing that plaintiffs believe is necessary to address the recent production.

(Via Bloomberg)