Former Apple contractor Thomas le Bonniec had helped blow the whistle on how third-party contractors were listening to personal Siri recordings of Apple users without their knowledge lat yeare. Now, he has decided to go public once again to protest how Apple has been let go easily from the entire fiasco.
In July last year, it was discovered that Apple contractors regularly heard Siri conversations of users as a part of their process of grading the voice assistant. The conversations revealed confidential medical information, drug deals, and other personal information of users without their knowledge. The revelation led to a huge fiasco and Apple was heavily criticized for this. The company suspended its Siri grading program temporarily and later on made major privacy-focused changes to it.
Former Apple contractor and whistleblower Thomas le Bonniec, however, believes that Apple has been let off easily despite making such a major privacy blunder. Frustrated by this, he has sent a letter to all European data protection regulators. In the letter, Bonniec says that it is worrying to see Apple ignoring and “violating fundamental rights” and continuing with its “massive collection of data.” He accuses Apple and other tech companies of “basically wiretapping entire populations” despite consumers made to believe otherwise that their data is safe due to the stringent data protection laws of the EU.
“I listened to hundreds of recordings every day, from various Apple devices (eg. iPhones, Apple Watches, or iPads). These recordings were often taken outside of any activation of Siri, eg in the context of an actual intention from the user to activate it for a request. These processings were made without users being aware of it, and were gathered into datasets to correct the transcription of the recording made by the device.
The recordings were not limited to the users of Apple devices, but also involved relatives, children, friends, colleagues, and whoever could be recorded by the device. The system recorded everything: names, addresses, messages, searches, arguments, background noises, films, and conversations. I heard people talking about their cancer, referring to dead relatives, religion, sexuality, pornography, politics, school, relationships, or drugs with no intention to activate Siri whatsoever.
These practices are clearly at odds with the company’s ‘privacy-driven’ policies and should be urgently investigated by data protection authorities and Privacy watchdogs. With the current statement, I want to bring this issue to your attention, and also offer my cooperation to provide any element substantiating these facts. Although this case has already gone public, Apple has not been subject to any kind of investigation to the best of my knowledge.”
Such strong statements from the whistleblower are going to raise a few alarm bells and it is likely going to lead the EU to launch an investigation against Apple. Do you also think that strict action should have been taken against Apple for the Siri grading fiasco from last year?
[Via The Guardian]