A former Apple contractor who worked to transcribe and rate Siri recordings became a whistleblower to warn the public that Apple and other giant tech companies continue to “wiretap entire populations” because they have faced no penalties or other repercussions for their unethical and potentially illegal data gathering.
Whistleblower Thomas le Bonniec, who worked to transcribe Apple users’ Siri queries and other recorded material, says he is going public with his warnings in protest of the lack of action by any governments to hold the company accountable.
Mr. le Bonniec, 25, wished to remain anonymous last year when he first revealed the extent of Apple’s “wiretapping” operations. He was one of 300 people employed by Globetech, a Cork, Ireland-based firm that Apple hired to listen to, transcribe, and rate consumers’ Siri recordings. He quit last summer because he was bothered by the work he was doing, which he regarded as unethical.
In that role, Mr. le Bonniec had to review about 1,000 Siri English and French recordings per shift. The recordings were made both deliberately and accidentally, and often included highly personal information.
“I listened to hundreds of recordings every day, from various Apple devices (eg. iPhones, Apple Watches, or iPads),” Mr. le Bonniec wrote in a letter to all European data protection regulators according to The Guardian. “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.”
He said users were not aware that their words were being recorded and gathered into a database that informed Apple’s artificial intelligence platform.
“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.”
Mr. le Bonniec said he is troubled that Apple and other big tech companies keep “ignoring and violating fundamental rights and continue their massive collection of data,” even after their practices were exposed.
Apple apologized for its data-gathering and review practices in a statement last August. In October, the company released a software update that allows users to opt out of the voice recordings. However, Mr. le Bonniec said that while EU regulators claim to have the strongest data protection laws in the world, they still have done little to enforce those laws.
If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, contact one of the lawyers on our firm’s Whistleblower Litigation Team for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim. Beasley Allen lawyers Larry Golston, Lance Gould, Paul Evans, Leslie Pescia, Leon Hampton, Tyner Helms and Lauren Miles are working in this area of law known as “qui tam” cases. A lawyer on the team will be glad to discuss the potential claim with you either in person or by phone.