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Apple may face fines over documents in privacy lawsuit

Judge notes dramatic increase in document discovery as a result of court's review, suggesting sanctions may be in order.

A judge scolded Apple today over how it has handled document discovery in a privacy lawsuit, warning that the iPhone maker may face court-ordered penalties.

Noting that Apple's document production "has more than doubled since the court got involved," U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal suggested plaintiffs' attorneys pursue sanctions against Apple, according to a Bloomberg account of the proceedings.

During a hearing today in San Jose, Calif., Grewal asked Apple lawyers why documents were submitted only after the court ordered a review of its document-production process. It "doesn't sound like you did a lick of work" to ensure workers were properly determining which documents should be turned over.

"We've gone through close to a dozen people that should've come up and didn't come up" in previous requests for information, Grewal said. "In light of that process, how am I to have any confidence that the procedure now is any better" than before, Grewal asked.

An Apple attorney responded by admitting that the documents at issue "absolutely should've been collected and they were not" and promising that it would not happen again.

CNET has contacted Apple for comment and will update this report when we learn more.

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 month that they were "shocked to learn that Apple failed to review the files of senior executives, such as Steve Jobs." Grewal said at the time that it was "unacceptable" that Apple had waited more than three months to make sure it had complied with his November documents order, adding that he could no longer rely on what Apple told him about documents in the case.