In Brief

Whistle-blower claims Apple ‘ignoring and violating’ users’ rights

Former contractor says tech giant has failed to act on his disclosures about ‘intimate’ Siri recordings

A former Apple whistle-blower has gone public to protest against the lack of action taken as a result of his previous disclosures about the company listening to Siri users’ recordings.

In a letter sent to all European data protection regulators, Thomas le Bonniec said it was “worrying that Apple (and undoubtedly not just Apple) keeps ignoring and violating fundamental rights”. 

He continued: “I am extremely concerned that big tech companies are basically wiretapping entire populations despite European citizens being told the EU has one of the strongest data protection laws in the world. 

“Passing a law is not good enough: it needs to be enforced upon privacy offenders.”

The 25-year-old worked as a subcontractor for Apple at its offices in the Irish city of Cork, before quitting last summer “due to ethical concerns with the work”, The Guardian reports. 

Le Bonniec told the newspaper that what Apple does “operate[s] on a moral and legal grey area”, adding that “they have been doing this for years on a massive scale. They should be called out in every possible way.”

As Business Insider reports, Apple last year apologised and suspended its “grading” program - which allowed contractors to listen to recordings of queries made to voice assistant Siri -  following Le Bonniec’s initial disclosures.

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The contractor told The Guardian last July that he had listened to “hundreds of recordings every day” including “countless instances of recordings featuring private discussions between doctors and patients, business deals, seemingly criminal dealings, sexual encounters and so on”.

The Verge notes that Apple is one of “several major tech companies” - including GoogleAmazon, Facebook, and Microsoft - that was caught using paid human contractors to review recordings” from digital assistants.

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