Hot on the heels of last week’s revelations that Apple willingly sacrifices the privacy and data security of millions of its users in order to appease despotic governments and increase the corporation’s profits, in the first article this week we have yet another extremely concerning sign that Apple’s products are not just hackable and reprogrammable, but that they could also be potentially used for other nefarious purposes. The researcher in the article on the Conversation speculates that, since Apple’s AirTags have already been hacked, they could be used by stalkers to track owners, which is an alarming enough prospect on its own. What should really make you stop and wonder how secure your tech devices are though, comes from the fact contained in the headline – Apple, along with other hardware, social media and tech companies – are running their own covert, unaccountable in-house surveillance networks. Although you may regularly hear companies like Apple claim that they totally respect their users’ privacy and data, from recent news we know for a fact that companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon almost always favour profits over users’ rights, and even when they are exposed for their greedy and dubious practices, they rarely even own up to their misdeeds.
This brings us to the second article about Amazon’s Ring doorbell-cam, and the massive risk that it poses, not just to privacy, but also possibly civil rights. While they do not appear to be widespread outside of the US just yet, the Ring cameras there are rising in popularity and increasingly being incorporated into law enforcement’s surveillance networks, but without the legal protections that police surveillance is usually subjected to. This is ostensibly because users are willingly signing away their legal protections in the misguided view that it may benefit their personal security, or make life marginally more convenient for themselves, not unlike the way in which people automatically accept terms and conditions and cookie settings on apps and websites without even reading the fine print, let alone considering the serious drawbacks agreeing to them could entail.
However, as the first article made clear, with Apple’s ‘Find My’ app and AirTags, along with tracking functions on other devices and software, the significant trade-offs to users’ privacy and the inability or difficulty of opting out of such functions are rarely made clear anyway. In the same way that Apple tried to hide the fact that it secretly listens to recordings of people’s Siri and microphone records – which, like with ‘Ok, Google’ commands, if you enable them, it means that Apple, Google or who knows who else can always listen to everything you do and say whenever your phone is by your side – these tech companies have proven time and again that they cannot be trusted to put users’ rights, privacy, or security first. If only governments weren’t also so focused on spying on us then perhaps they would stand up to these tech companies and force them to stop their questionable practices.