Slap in the face! Woman says Apple Face ID on iPhones being used to harvest employees' data | Tech News

Slap in the face! Woman says Apple Face ID on iPhones being used to harvest employees' data

The data watchdog in the UK plans to launch a probe against Apple after a former woman staffer accused the tech giant of accessing iPhones of its employees through the Face ID feature.

| Updated on: Aug 22 2022, 11:42 IST
Apple might face a probe by the data watchdog in the UK after the claims of a former woman staffer claimed that Apple was accessing iPhones of its employees via the Face ID feature. (Bloomberg)

After a former Apple senior woman engineer claimed that Apple accessed smartphones of its employees by using the Face ID feature, data watchdogs in the UK are launching a probe into the Cupertino-based tech giant. Apple has been surrounded by controversies lately, with just a week ago a report highlighted that the App Store was pilot testing a feature to allow its developers to start charging users for any increases in subscription fees. Now, this latest incident is about the Apple Face ID on iPhones.

Whistleblower Ashley Gjovik alleged in a complaint registered with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) that Apple fired her after she raised multiple concerns both internally and publicly. One of the main concerns raised by her included the safety of the workplace. In her complaint, she stated that the tech giant is “pressuring its employees to participate in invasive data collection procedures, including scans of ears/ear canals”.

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UK Probe: Former employee raises Apple Face ID privacy concerns

According to a TechCrunch report, both U.K.'s ICO and France's Commission Nationale Informatique & Libertés (CNIL) have confirmed the receipt of Gjovik's complaint. A spokesperson for the ICO stated, “We are aware of this matter and we will assess the information provided”. It looks very likely that the Apple UK probe will soon be launched.

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Another big allegation by Gjovik in the 54-page complaint on privacy invasion was that Apple gathered biometric data from its employees using an app called “Gobbler” (which was later called “Glimmer”). Apparently it was used as a part of the product development process for Face ID. Gjovik claimed that the app on employees' iPhone “automatically took photos/videos whenever it ‘thought it saw a face'”.

“Apple was pressuring employees to upload their ‘faceprint data' to Apple internal servers, capturing secret photographs and videos of employees, and told employees that face-related logs were automatically uploaded from their iPhones daily,” mentions her complaint. She added, “My open questions included whether my personal data was being backed up on employee iCloud backups, synced via iCloud, and/or accessed/copied by Apple's corporate MDM profiles – or other Global Security surveillance of employee phones. It also disturbed me that the app was taking photos/videos without any notification (sound, signal, etc), which made me think that Apple, if it wanted to, could activate my device cameras and watch me without me knowing at any time as well. I talked to other employees, including managers, with similar concerns.”

She also claimed that after she raised concerns regarding staff privacy internally last September, she was fired shortly after. Apple is yet to make a comment on these allegations or the reports of a possible Apple UK probe.

Last year, Gjovik along with another ex-employee Cher Scarlett, cofounded a whistleblower campaign called #AppleToo.

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First Published Date: 15 Apr, 14:30 IST