Judge orders Apple to reveal app review process

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Are reviewers of entries to Apple’s App Store being threatened with death? That is the implication lawyers for the iPhone maker gave a California federal court earlier this week.

Despite the allegation, a judge overseeing a privacy lawsuit against Apple ordered the company to reveal how it reviews submitted apps, as well as condemned a three-month wait for internal documents.

Today is the deadline for Apple to turn over to U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal its process for gathering documents it must submit to plaintiffs. Attorneys for the plaintiffs charge the firm with collecting location data of iPhone owners without their permission. Earlier this week, Grewal issued the order, writing he cannot rely on Apple to turn over documents first requested in November 2012…

“Luckily for the plaintiffs, Apple has provided more than enough evidence itself to suggest to the court that it has not fully complied with the court’s order,” Grewal ruled, according to Bloomberg.

Apple claims it and its customers could be harmed if some documentation were “inadvertently relased to the public or fell into the wrong hands.” Tuesday, Apple lawyer Ashlie Beringer told Grewal the company mistakenly failed to turn over emails from the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, as well as from other executives.

Apple’s senior litigator Lynn Miller told the court “inadvertence” had caused the company to not submit six documents that should have been revealed. Ironically, those documents were attached to Apple’s request to dismiss the case against it, arguing the plaintiffs could not show any iPhone owner had been harmed.

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As part of Grewal’s order that Apple must reveal how it determines which documents are relevant in legal cases, the Judge also ordered the App Store owner to show plaintiffs how apps are reviewed. Apple had heavily redacted that information, arguing it’s disclosure could reveal trade secrets, as well as potentially put the lives of app reviewers at risk.

In February, Phillip Shoemaker, the App Review Director at Apple, told the court disclosing “the review process would jeopardize Apple and ‘create real risk'” to consumers, Bloomberg reports.

Shoemaker said one developer learned the ID of an app reviewer, followed the Apple employee to an overseas conference and “implied that he would kill the reviewer” when contact was made.

Grewal dismissed such potential risks, noting the identity of two other Apple app reviewers had been disclosed in past lawsuits without any harm coming to pass. The judge, however, did permit Apple to submit the app review process under an “attorneys-eyes-only” restriction, the Friday report notes.