- Thomas le Bonniec is a whistleblower who worked for Globe Technical Services, a subcontractor of Apple.
- Last year, he told The Guardian newspaper that while he was working he had to listen to hundreds of private recordings of users through the voice assistant Siri – including medical discussions and intimate moments like sex.
- In a letter to the European data protection authorities, he now publicly condemns the company and demands to take action against the technology giant.
Already in the summer of 2019, Apple was heavily criticized for listening to some employees. Thomas le Bonniec, a whistleblower who worked for Apple subcontractor Globe Technical Services, was involved in this action and is now publicly criticizing the company’s practices. In a new letter to the European data protection authorities, he also writes of hundreds of private and intimate recordings of users who were heard and transcribed according to his statements about Apple’s voice assistant Siri.
Le Bonniec calls for EU investigations against the technology giant
Le Bonniec was part of Apple’s grading project. His job was to listen to and record conversations that people had with the voice assistant Siri. This should improve the flawlessness of the system. However, many conversations were recorded without the users having activated Siri beforehand and therefore without the knowledge and consent of the users.
Now Le Bonniec, based in Cork, Ireland, has sent an open letter to the European data protection authorities. In it he demands to take action against the technology giant.
“It is worrying that Apple (and undoubtedly not only Apple) continues to ignore and violate fundamental rights and continue massive data collection,” he writes.
“I am extremely concerned that large technology companies are essentially listening to entire populations, even though Europeans are told that the EU has one of the strictest data protection laws in the world. Adopting a law is not good enough: it must be enforced above all against companies that violate data protection, ”the letter continues.
Users didn’t know about the recordings
Last year Le Bonniec told The Guardian that he had heard a variety of private and sometimes intimate voice recordings while working at Apple. This included messages that were inadvertently sent by Siri users, including medical discussions, drug dealing, and people who were having sex. Sometimes such snippets of conversation were recorded without the user deliberately activating Siri.
“Every day I listened to hundreds of recordings from various Apple devices (e.g. iPhones, Apple Watches or iPads). These recordings were often recorded regardless of Siri’s activation […]. This processing was done without user knowledge and was collected in data sets to correct the transcription of the recording made by the device, ”Le Bonniec explains in his letter.
Not just Apple users affected
“The recordings were not limited to Apple device users, but also relatives, children, friends, colleagues and anyone who could be recorded by the device. The system recorded everything: names, addresses, messages, searches, arguments, background noise, films and conversations. I heard people talk about their cancer related to dead relatives, religion, sexuality, pornography, politics, school, relationships, or drugs, with no intention of activating Siri at all, ”he adds.
For NewsABC.net USA, Apple was not immediately available for comment. Last year, the company apologized for the privacy violation and suspended the evaluation program. Apple isn’t the first company to take advantage of smart assistant footage. Amazon also ran a similar program for Alexa.
Lea Kreppmeier translated and adapted this article from English. You can find the original here.