Buried Apple Privacy Scandal Undermines Its Attacks On Right To Repair Legislation
from the do-as-we-say,-not-as-we-do dept
Apple has never looked kindly upon users actually repairing their own devices. The company’s ham-fisted efforts to shut down, sue, or otherwise imperil third-party repair shops are legendary. As are the company’s efforts to force recycling shops to shred Apple products (so they can’t be refurbished and re-used). As is Apple’s often comical attacks on essential right to repair legislation, which usually involves the company insisting that allowing broader independent and consumer repair of their devices would be a security and privacy nightmare.
Yeah, about that. Apple last week was revealed to have paid a multi-million dollar settlement to an Oregon woman after iPhone repair technicians uploaded explicit images and videos to the internet from a phone that she sent in for repair. In this case, the culprits were employed by one of Apple’s “authorized” repair contractors, Pegatron Technology Service in California. These authorized techs then uploaded the woman’s private conversations and photos to the internet, making it look as if she had done it:
“The videos were uploaded to appear as though the woman herself had shared them on purpose, according to the documents, causing the woman ?severe emotional distress?. The woman was made aware of the incident when friends saw the videos and images on Facebook. The woman sued Apple and eventually settled with the company for a multi-million dollar sum. But Apple was never directly named in the lawsuit in an effort to keep the matter confidential.”
The revelation comes on the heels of a previous instance where an Apple store employee did something very similar. The latest screw up, subsequent payoff, and attempt to bury the settlement rather undermines Apple’s longstanding argument that its own repair process is somehow superior to independent repair shops, and that by making it easier to repair consumer devices, consumers face all manner of alleged privacy and security harm (even if a recent bipartisan FTC report found that wasn’t actually true).
The inconsistency was quickly seized upon by right to repair advocates, who note that Apple has lobbied intensely against the right to repair legislation that has been proposed in more than half of states in 2021 alone. Usually using what right to repair advocates describe as the “benevolent monopoly” argument
“Paul Roberts, a Right to Repair advocate and founder of SecuRepairs.org, calls this argument the ?benevolent monopoly? argument. Yes, we have taken your choices away from you, the reasoning goes, but we did it to protect you from making the wrong choice or being tricked. Science fiction author and activist Cory Doctorow describes Apple?s model as ?digital feudalism,? with the company acting as ?warlord,? forcing citizens to stay within its walls and to abide by its rules.”
But the choice of who should repair devices consumers, John Deere tractor owners, or hospitals own shouldn’t be left up to the manufacturer. Especially if that manufacturer is attempting to monopolize repair in a way that’s not only harmful to customers, but the planet itself.