Apple: a whistleblower accuses the firm of spying on its employees under the guise of product tests
Ashley Gjøvik has decided to file a complaint against Apple with regulatory bodies around the world. The engineer fired last year, presumably for having made too many waves within the company, now warns about her practices in terms of spying on her employees. She mentions in particular Glimmer, an application specially designed to recover confidential data.
The name ofAshley Gjovik may be telling you something. Formerly senior director of engineering at Apple, she rose to prominence last year following her dismissal. At the time, the official reason cited by the Cupertino company is the hypothetical fsuite of confidential data orchestrated by the ex-employee. Ashley Gjøvik, for her part, is convinced that her questions and complaints to the managerial staff have disturbed.
It is now common knowledge that Apple, like other tech giants like Google, has a habit ofspy on employees. Very often, it is a question of exerting pressure, thus destroying any union project. A few months ago, we told you about the group action of employees across the United States, forced to communicate via Android smartphones to avoid being spotted.
Glimmer, the Apple app that spies on its employees
When he was fired, Ashley Gjøvik spoke of a hostile work environment favorable to sexist behavior. Today, it is another fear that it raises with regulatory bodies around the world. The CNIL and many of its counterparts around the world have received a complaint from the ex-employee regarding Apple’s espionage practices.
The heart of his case is mostly on Glimmer. Formerly called Gobbler, it is an application used by Apple internally when Face ID development. Initially, Glimmer is supposed to help Apple improve its products, by encouraging willing employees to participate in testing. Volunteers should then scan their face and provide other biometric data.
Only here, these tests are not really based on the employee volunteering. Ashley Gjøvik thus evokes the day when she thought of participating in a “compulsory social event”, which led to her having to manipulate Face ID using Glimmer while locked in an outdoor room. What’s more, Apple doesn’t just use Glimmer for these events. Ashley Gjøvik asserts that management expressly asks employees to download their personal data at any time of the day.
“Apple pressured employees to upload their ‘facial fingerprint data’ to Apple’s internal servers, captured secret employee photographs and videos, and told employees that face-related logs were automatically downloaded daily from their iPhones”explains the whistleblower.
Apple used employees’ faces for Face ID
Ashley Gjøvik also takes as an example an official statement from Apple during the presentation of Face ID. The firm then boasted of having scanned more than a billion images to optimize its technology, without specifying where it had obtained these said images. The ex-engineer says it’s actually the private photos of employeesprovided thanks to Glimmer.
“I was also troubled by the fact that the app took photos/videos without any notification (sound, signal, etc.), which made me think that Apple, if they wanted to, could activate my device’s cameras and monitor me without my knowledge at all times. I spoke to other employees, including executives, who had the same concerns”continues the whistleblower, who ensures that employees never really knew how their personal data was used.
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Finally, Ashley Gjøvik also said she was very worried about the system of sreporting bugs within the company. Indeed, Apple would use the tickets sent by employees to collect, again, their personal information without notifying them in advance. Ashley Gjøvik claims that her tickets are sent by default to all engineers in the company, potentially several tens of thousands of people. Attachments, meant to aid in diagnosis, often include employee numbers or direct contact information.
“Apple claims that human rights do not differ based on location, but Apple also admits that the French and German governments would never allow it to do what it does in Cupertino, California and elsewhere”, concludes the whistleblower. It is clear that if Glimmer has been used in the offices of the firm in certain European countries, this is not the case for France and Germany. Chinese and Japanese employees are also prohibited from using it.
Ashley Gjøvik hopes that the European authorities will recognize the violation of privacy that Apple exerts on its American teams and elsewhere in the world. With its GDPR, Europe could be strong support for the whistleblower. Ireland, in particular, hosts the European headquarters of the apple brand, in addition to being the source of several fines for abusive practices and spying on users.
Source: The Telegraph