Apple's Dedication To Privacy Is Missing When It Comes To Its Workforce, Employees Say

from the consistently-inconsistent dept

For a while it’s been clear that Apple has been hoping to use “we care about privacy” as a marketing advantage in an internet economy that consistently… doesn’t. For example Apple has stood up to the FBI when it comes to backdooring encryption. And in 2020 Apple unveiled several new privacy features and policies it hoped would differentiate it from its other “big tech” contemporaries repeatedly under fire in the press and in Congress. Granted there’s been ongoing hints this dedication isn’t exactly consistent, but it’s the thought that counts, I guess.

But Apple employees say the company’s outward-facing dedication to privacy isn’t reflected in house. This week The Verge reported on how the company’s decision to force Apple employees to link their personal Apple ID and work Apple accounts are creating significant privacy headaches for employees. Personal Apple ID accounts are obviously filled with all manner of sensitive personal and financial data that an employee might not want shared with an employer. And the requirement that employees fuse their personal and work lives in such a fashion is causing significant internal turmoil, the report claims:

“…some employees say the company isn?t doing enough to protect their personal privacy and, at times, actively seeks to invade it for security reasons. Employees have been asked to install software builds on their phones to test out new features prior to launch ? only to find the builds expose their personal messages. Others have found that when testing new products like Apple?s Face ID, images are recorded every time they open their phones. ?If they did this to a customer, people would lose their goddamn minds,? says Ashley Gj?vik, a senior engineering program manager.”

Apple devices don?t support using multiple Apple IDs, and while you can technically use several phones (say, an Android), that winds up being cumbersome and difficult if you want to actually get work done. The forced integration is just a bizarre disconnect from the company’s recent pro-privacy branding. Especially given the requirements have had a stunning privacy impact on the very people Apple expects to build privacy-friendly products and services:

So in short Apple is demanding that employees fuse extremely personal accounts with oceans of sensitive data with their work accounts. While at the same time conducting significant internal surveillance, and making it extremely clear employees should have absolutely no expectation of privacy (very much the status quo at most companies):

“Underpinning all of this is a stringent employment agreement that gives Apple the right to conduct extensive employee surveillance, including ?physical, video, or electronic surveillance? as well as the ability to ?search your workspace such as file cabinets, desks, and offices (even if locked), review phone records, or search any non-Apple property (such as backpacks, purses) on company premises.”

The story makes it very clear Apple hasn’t tried very hard to make any of this any easier. Untangling your personal and work data when you leave Apple also winds up being a nightmare, given that Apple bans employees from wiping their company-owned devices (including the personal data that gets tangled up with work) when they leave the company, opening them to legal action for violating their employment agreement if they do.

So in short Apple’s marketing insists that when it comes to privacy the company is ethical and different, but when it comes to the people actually tasked with building the products that adhere to those standards — these values suddenly and mysteriously disappear.

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Companies: apple

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Comments on “Apple's Dedication To Privacy Is Missing When It Comes To Its Workforce, Employees Say”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Damien says:

If this is an issue with devices (presumably phones and tablets) being unable to have two active apple IDs on them at the same time the answer here is simple: Apple can provide employees with a work phone for their work ID. At no point should any employer, ever, feel they have the right to demand that employees link personal accounts to a work account or device. No personal accounts should ever, under any circumstances, be linked to work in such a way that they can become subject of a lawsuit discovery search. It doesn’t matter what their employment contract says, that’s simply a bridge too far.

Pixelation says:

I agree that forcing them to link personal accounts is too far. However, when I read something like this…
"@ashleygjovik was forced to hand over nude photos of herself when her team was involved in unrelated litigation — because, like many Apple employees, her personal messages were on a work device ", I have to wonder, did she not know that Apple would have access?
The first thing Apple employees should do is get an Android phone and port their personal phone number there. Maybe inconvenient, but so what? Want access? Get a warrant.

settsu says:

Re: Re: did she not know that Apple would have access?

It was not a personal device. It was a work device.

While some managers at Apple seem to have crossed a line in pushing employees towards using personal accounts for work purposes (not likely an official policy, but one Apple must answer for regardless), keeping nudes on a work device is an objectively terrible decision.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Techdirt isn’t really a "news" organization, it’s an op-ed organization. Sometimes, that opinion may be related to "news," but sometimes it isn’t.

In this case, there is no "news." The author is opining that Apple’s attempts to differentiate itself from competition on the basis of "privacy" are a marketing ploy, rather than a statement of corporate culture and/or governance.

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