Apple whistleblower brings spying claims to UK

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Britain’s information watchdog is investigating claims that Apple was able to access personal information on workers’ phones after a privacy complaint was lodged by a whistleblower.

Ashley Gjøvik, a former senior Apple engineer, has filed a 54-page privacy complaint against the iPhone maker alleging unlawful data collection and invasion of employee privacy over “years and multiple countries”.

In the filing, which has been lodged with the UK Data Protection Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and its counterpart in Brussels, Ms Gjøvik claimed that she publicly expressed concerns about Apple “pressuring its employees to participate in invasive data collection procedures, including scans of ears/ear canals”.

She also accused the company of using an app on employees’ iPhones that “automatically took photos/videos whenever it ‘thought it saw a face’”.

In the filing Ms Gjøvik said: “I respectfully request that you investigate the matters I raised and open a larger investigation into these topics within Apple’s corporate offices globally.”

The complaint was also submitted to the Data Protection Commission in Ireland and London-based Big Brother Watch, the privacy campaigning organisation.

An ICO spokesman said: “We are aware of this matter and we will assess the information provided.”

Ms Gjøvik was fired by Apple last September for allegedly violating the company’s rules against leaking confidential information.

She claimed to have begun raising concerns about workplace safety in March last year, including those related to Apple’s policies on how it can search and surveil employees’ work phones.

Ms Gjøvik has also alleged that she has faced bullying and harassment from her manager and other colleagues, in a campaign that has been dubbed Apple’s “MeToo” moment.

This is thought to be the first time that she has tried to take her battle against the notoriously secretive tech giant to the UK.

The campaign dragged Apple into a growing wave of employee activism affecting its Silicon Valley rivals. In 2018, more than 20,000 Google staff held a walkout against forced arbitration agreements and alleged payouts related to sexual harassment.

An Apple spokesman said: “We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters.”

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