Parents of Halloween crush victim sue Apple to unlock dead son’s iPhone

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Jun. 28, 2023 6:24PM GMT+9

The parents of one of the victims who died in a crowd surge that killed more than 150 people during Halloween festivities last year sued Apple, requesting that the company unlock their dead son’s iPhone so that they could uncover the true cause of his death.

According to the Ho law firm, which represents the family members, the lawsuit was filed on Wednesday, June 14 in Seoul Central District Court against Apple’s South Korean branch, asking the company to reset the victim’s Apple account password. A week later, on June 21, the law firm submitted a modified application to the court, requesting that the iPhone tech giant unlock the victim’s phone, which was an iPhone 7 plus.

The lawsuit states that the victim’s parents tried to gain access to their son’s iPhone to find out why he was at the Halloween festivities in the first place, which was an odd visit based on the victim’s usual interests. However, the phone was locked, as they entered the wrong password numerous times. In hopes of finding out their son’s cause of death, they asked Apple to unlock the phone where the data of his last presence remains.

“Considering the relationship with family members and the urgent situation during the crowd crush, it is well assumed that the deceased would agree to provide his personal information to the family members so that they could know the information related to his death,” asserted the victim’s parents in the document. “Considering such circumstances, the family members could request that Apple unlock the phone based on the deceased’s presumed or implied consent.”

According to a post on Apple’s official website which was published last year, family members could demand access to their loved one’s personal data through a court order which names them as a rightful inheritor. In addition, the court order should be addressed to the relevant Apple entity and command the company to assist with accessing the decedent’s information from his or her personal accounts. The Readable reached out to Apple’s South Korean branch for comment related to the lawsuit but did not receive an immediate response.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.