- Apple will pay a university student millions of USD for causing her “severe emotional distress.”
- The customer took her phone to an Apple repair point, and the technicians accessed her data and posted her nudes online.
- Apple's repair system is severely flawed and undermines the security and privacy of those forced to follow it.
Apple’s heavily criticized phone repair practices have just taken another big blow, as the tech giant is now paying the price for following a very privacy-invasive approach which could result in the customers being catastrophically exposed. More specifically, the company has just reached a multi-million settlement with a university student from Oregon, U.S., who handed over her iPhone to Apple for repair back in 2016.
The two repair technicians at the spot asked her to hand over her AppleID passcode to unlock the device, which is supposedly needed to repair any device on an Apple store. This is a standard procedure even when all that is needed is to replace a broken screen. It is really a shame for a company that takes pride in its mobile OS's privacy-protection features and an entity that has refused to share the same passcode with the FBI. Possibly, terrorists didn’t have to use the Genius Bar.
Simply put, the privacy and data protection of a person who hands over their device to Apple for repair relies upon the ethical compass of the technicians. If these people would like to access all Apple-linked customer accounts, they could very easily do so. In this case, the two technicians had the audacity (and stupidity) to post the private images of the student online, and the systemic problem was revealed. We can only imagine how much abuse must have occurred in these repair points and went unreported and undiscovered because the technicians kept it to themselves.
This is why Apple signed a confidentiality agreement with the student, as revealing the details of her story publicly would cause the company irreparable business harm. Obviously, the two technicians have been fired, and Apple has promised to look deeper into its repair procedures to ensure that this will not happen again. However, and even though there are practical ways to address this loophole, Apple hasn’t taken any solid steps towards that direction yet.
If your iPhone needs repair, consider taking it to a third-party repair shop, buying an iFixit kit and spare parts, doing it yourself, or just buying a new phone. If you have to hand it over to Apple, back up your data and perform a complete wipe on the device. If an employee of Apple or any other repair shop asks for your passcode, deny sharing that information.