Apple ‘failing to protect workers’



Secret filming of worker asleep during her shift

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Richard Bilton reports from Shanghai: ”An exhausted workforce”

Poor treatment of workers in Chinese factories which make Apple products has been discovered by an undercover BBC Panorama investigation.

Filming on an iPhone 6 production line showed Apple’s promises to protect workers were routinely broken.

It found standards on workers’ hours, ID cards, dormitories, work meetings and juvenile workers were being breached at the Pegatron factories.

Apple said it strongly disagreed with the programme’s conclusions.

Exhausted workers were filmed falling asleep on their 12-hour shifts at the Pegatron factories on the outskirts of Shanghai.

One undercover reporter, working in a factory making parts for Apple computers, had to work 18 days in a row despite repeated requests for a day off.

Another reporter, whose longest shift was 16 hours, said: “Every time I got back to the dormitories, I wouldn’t want to move.

“Even if I was hungry I wouldn’t want to get up to eat. I just wanted to lie down and rest. I was unable to sleep at night because of the stress.”

‘Continuous improvement’

Apple declined to be interviewed for the programme, but said in a statement: “We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions.

“We work with suppliers to address shortfalls, and we see continuous and significant improvement, but we know our work is never done.”

Apple said it was a very common practice for workers to nap during breaks, but it would investigate any evidence they were falling asleep while working.

It said it monitored the working hours of more than a million workers and that staff at Pegatron were averaging 55 hours a week.

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Panorama

Watch Panorama: Apple’s Broken Promises on BBC One on 18 December at 21:00 GMT or later on the BBC iPlayer.

The poor conditions in Chinese factories were highlighted in 2010 when 14 workers killed themselves at Apple’s biggest supplier, Foxconn.

Following the suicides, Apple published a set of standards spelling out how factory workers should be treated. It also moved some of its production work to Pegatron’s factories on the outskirts of Shanghai.

But Panorama’s undercover reporters found that these standards were routinely breached on the factory floor.

Overtime is supposed to be voluntary, but none of the reporters were offered any choice. In addition to the excessive hours, one reporter had to attend unpaid meetings before and after work. Another reporter was housed in a dormitory where 12 workers shared a cramped room.

Apple says the dormitory overcrowding has now been resolved and that it requires suppliers to retroactively pay workers if it finds they haven’t been paid for work meetings.

Pegatron said it was carefully investigating Panorama’s claims and would take all necessary action if any deficiencies were found at their facilities.

“Worker safety and well-being are our top priorities. We set very high standards, conduct rigorous training for managers and workers, and have external auditors regularly visiting our facilities to find areas for improvement,” a statement said.

Dangerous conditions

Panorama also travelled further down Apple’s supply chain to the Indonesian island of Bangka.

Apple says it is dedicated to the ethical sourcing of minerals, but the programme found evidence that tin from illegal mines could be entering its supply chain.

It found children digging tin ore out by hand in extremely dangerous conditions – miners can be buried alive when the walls of sand or mud collapse.

RiantoRainto, 12, said he was worried about landslides

Twelve-year-old Rianto was working with his dad at the bottom of a 70-foot cliff of sand. He said: “I worry about landslides. The earth slipping from up there to the bottom. It could happen.”

Panorama tracked down a gang who collect tin from the area where Rianto was working. One of them said they sold tin to a smelter on Apple’s list of suppliers.

Johan Murod, who runs one of the smelters on Apple’s list, said 70% of the tin that is exported comes from the small-scale mines.

“At the smelter there’s everything from both large and small scale mines. It’s all mixed. There’s no way to know what is legal and what is illegal.”

Apple says it is a complex situation on Bangka with tens of thousands of miners selling tin through many middle men.

“The simplest course of action would be for Apple to unilaterally refuse any tin from Indonesian mines. That would be easy for us to do and would certainly shield us from criticism.

“But that would also be the lazy and cowardly path, since it would do nothing to improve the situation. We have chosen to stay engaged and attempt to drive changes on the ground.”

Watch Panorama: Apple’s Broken Promises on BBC One on 18 December at 21:00 GMT or watch later on BBC iPlayer.

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Snapchat boss tearful at Sony hack

Evan SpiegelSnapchat boss Evan Spiegel said keeping company secrets was “painful”

Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel has said he is “devastated” and “angry” that plans for his messaging app were leaked as part of the Sony Pictures hack.

Details of future ideas and strategy were outlined by Mr Spiegel in emails to Michael Lynton, a Sony executive who sits on Snapchat’s board.

Also included were details, including financial data, on previously unpublicised acquisitions.

“I felt like I was going to cry all morning,” Mr Spiegel said in a memo.

“I went on a walk and thought through a couple things.”

‘Huge hug’

Mr Spiegel later shared on Twitter the emotional note he sent to Snapchat’s employees, entitled Keeping Secrets.

“I’ve been feeling a lot of things since our business plans were made public last night,” he wrote.

“Definitely angry. Definitely devastated.

SnapchatAcquisitions made by messaging app Snapchat have been made public

“I want to give you all a huge hug because keeping secrets is exhausting.

“Keeping secrets means coming home late, after working all day and night. Curling up with your loved ones, hanging out with your friends, and not being able to share all of the incredible things you’re working on. It’s painful, it’s tiring.”

The leak detailed big ambitions for the popular app which allows users to send messages – images or video – that disappear after a short period of time.

According to the emails, the company purchased Vergence Labs, an eyewear company that produced a product comparable to Google Glass.

Snapchat also spent millions on Scan.me, a firm specialising in QR codes and advertising platform iBeacon.

‘Undetectable’ threat

Mr Spiegel’s staff memo does not comment on the acquisitions, nor does it suggest the company planned to take any legal action against Sony or any other party.

Sony Pictures’ legal woes are beginning to mount after the hack attack that has seen it cancel plans to release The Interview, a comedy about North Korea.

Vergence Labs glasses modelSnapchat acquired Vergence Labs, a company that makes a Google Glass-like product

Earlier this week, two former Sony Pictures employees filed a lawsuit accusing the company of not properly securing private data.

Around 15,000 employees had personal information, including social security numbers, leaked following the hack.

Sony Pictures said the attack was “unprecedented”, and that the threat was “undetectable by industry-standard antivirus software”.

Mr Spiegel has said he will spend some time being “angry and upset” before getting back to work.

“It’s not fair that the people who try to build us up and break us down get a glimpse of who we really are.

“It’s not fair that people get to take away all the hard work we’ve done to surprise our community, family and friends.”

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC

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New Blackberry ‘back to its roots’

Blackberry ClassicAnalysts predict the Qwerty keyboard will please existing fans

Blackberry has launched what it calls a “no-nonsense” smartphone, the Blackberry Classic.

The device has a full “Qwerty” keyboard, resembling the design which made Blackberry a market leader before it was overtaken by competitors.

Analysts said the firm was going “back to its roots” in order to appeal to business customers.

But some warned that while this tactic would help retain business, it might not attract new users.

“This is more about avoiding more people leaving than necessarily winning many over,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst for Kantar Worldpanel.

“I have a hard time thinking that people who grew up on touch[screens] will see this as an exciting ‘retro’ trend and embrace it.”

Challenging year

The Classic has an eight-megapixel camera on its reverse and, as well as the physical keyboard, the device can be controlled via its 3.5-inch touchscreen.

Blackberry has had a challenging year, albeit one showing at least some positive signs for the company formerly known as Research in Motion.

News in March of annual losses of $5.9bn (£3.5bn) highlighted the company’s slip from being a major smartphone player.

However, after significant cost-cutting, and with higher profit margins, the company was able to overcome a drop in revenues to post a profit of $23m (£14m) for the three months to the end of March 2014.

More recently, the company impressed technology enthusiasts with the Blackberry Passport, a distinctive smartphone which, like the Classic, made use of a physical keyboard.

Blackberry PassportThe Blackberry Passport’s distinctive design proved popular

“Knowing your strengths and recognising your weaknesses could be Blackberry’s way back from the brink,” said Rob Kerr, mobiles expert at Uswitch.com.

“Like its Passport phone, the mobile maker has gone back to its roots with the Classic – furnishing it with the physical keyboard that so many appreciate in the touchscreen era.

“Keyboard phones were always its strong point and this true return to form hails back to Blackberry’s glory days.

“Although this handset is unlikely to capture the once strong youth market, businesses might once again come back to the fold.”

Blackberry’s executive chairman, John Chen, said the Classic was built after gathering feedback from “dedicated” users.

He added: “By bringing back the trusted functionalities, incorporating our latest operating system and building a speedier browser, our users can feel confident they are using the best communications tool out there.”

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Apple defeats $1bn case over iTunes

Steve Jobs holding iPodThe trial featured videotape testimony from the late Steve Jobs which had been recorded in 2011

Apple has been found not guilty of engaging in anti-competitive behaviour by a jury in California.

The long-running suit focused on Apple’s 2006 update to its iTunes software which meant only iPods could play music purchased from the store.

Consumers alleged this violated US antitrust laws, and sued for $350m (£222m) in damages.

The trial had featured emails sent by Apple founder Steve Jobs before his death in 2012.

The class action suit represented as many as 8 million iPod customers and 500 resellers, and could have cost Apple as much as $1bn, as anti-competition damage rewards are automatically tripled under US law.

‘An issue’

Lawyers representing consumers and electronics retailers argued that Apple used its iTunes software to force buyers to use iPods instead of rival devices between 2006 and 2009. (The software was updated in 2009 to remove the restrictions.)

The lawyers argued this shut out other devices artificially inflated the price of iPods and used the emails from Mr Jobs to buttress this argument.

In one, sent in 2003, Mr Jobs worried about competition from Musicmatch, a software company, opening its own music store.

“We need to make sure that when Music Match launches their download music store they cannot use iPod,” he wrote.

“Is this going to be an issue?”

However, the jurors sided with Apple, who argued the upgrade to its iTunes 7.0 software substantially improved the user experience, and thus was not subject to anti-competitive violations.

Earlier this year, Apple announced it would cease manufacturing the iPod Classic, one of the signature products that led Apple’s revival under Mr Jobs.

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Microsoft rivals unite over data row

data centerTech firms use data centres such as this all over the world to store customers’ data

Apple and eBay are among those supporting Microsoft’s stand against handing over data stored in Ireland to the US government.

One year ago, prosecutors issued a warrant for emails stored by Microsoft in an Irish data centre, in connection with a drug-related investigation.

The tech giant refused to comply but was ordered by a judge to hand over the information in July.

Microsoft has now filed letters of support from a large number of allies.

These include tech firms Verizon, Amazon, Cisco and HP, as well as trade associations such as the US Chamber of Commerce, and Digital Rights Ireland.

Various news organisations such as CNN, the Guardian and the Washington Post are on board along with computer scientists from universities across the US including Harvard, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Earlier this year, New York judge James Francis said that a warrant for online information was the equivalent of a subpoena and had to be obeyed.

Privacy rights

The firm and its supporters argue that the centre in Dublin is outside US jurisdiction, while the prosecutors claim that as the data itself is accessible by the firm from within the US, this does not apply.

“We believe that when one government wants to obtain email that is stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects existing domestic and international laws,” wrote Microsoft’s Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs, in a blog post.

“In contrast, the US government’s unilateral use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts both fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk.”

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Sony warns press over hacking leaks

George Clooney with his Monuments Men co-stars John Goodman (l) and Jean Dujardin (r)Newly released emails reveal George Clooney’s disappointment at how The Monuments Men was received

Sony Pictures has contacted some US news outlets in an attempt to limit the damage caused by the hacking of its internal computer system last month.

The studio, its letter informed them, “does not consent to your possession… dissemination, publication… or making any use of the stolen information”.

Script details, salary data and private email correspondence have been leaked in the wake of the huge cyber attack.

A group calling itself Guardians of Peace has claimed responsibility.

It is believed that the attack was triggered by Sony’s new film The Interview, a comedy that features a plot to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea has denied being involved in the attack, but has described it as a “righteous deed” that may have been carried out by its “supporters and sympathisers”.

Variety, the New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter are among the publications understood to have been contacted by Sony’s legal team.

A New York Times spokeswoman said its coverage would “take into account both the significance of the news and the questions of how the information emerged”.

Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprioEmails involving Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio have been made public

Some of the emails released have contained embarrassing exchanges about some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, among them Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The producers of the new James Bond film Spectre have also confirmed that an early version of its script was stolen and “illegally made public by hackers”.

George Clooney is the latest movie star to have had his personal emails disseminated, revealing he was personally stung by the critical reaction to his recent film The Monuments Men.

“I fear I’ve let you all down,” the actor and director wrote in an exchange with Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman Amy Pascal.

The revelation that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams were paid less than their male co-stars in American Hustle has also been widely reported.

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is among those to have criticised the media’s apparent complicity with the hackers, accusing it of being “morally treasonous“.

According to Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein, however, publishing the stolen data is “problematic but necessary” because it “is in the public domain” and “unavoidable”.

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Pirate Bay ‘copy’ goes online

The Pirate Bay The new website is said to be a clone of The Pirate Bay database

Isohunt, a website providing access to mostly pirated material, has cloned the database of its competitor, The Pirate Bay, after it was shut down last week.

The cloned site is online and fully functioning, according to users.

The Pirate Bay, one of the world’s most visited websites, has been closed since a police raid in Sweden last week.

Isohunt, which was banned in the UK last month, says it made the move in order to “save the Freedom of information on the Internet”.

If The Pirate Bay returns, the cloned site will be taken down, Isohunt added.

The Pirate Bay offered an expansive list of links to pirated content including films, TV shows and music.

The Swedish police carried out a raid near Stockholm last week, seizing servers from The Pirate Bay following an investigation which had lasted “years”, the force said.

While its founders have already been convicted of copyright infringement offences and some have been jailed, the site has proved difficult to close down permanently.

In 2012, The Pirate Bay changed its structure to make itself more portable and easy to clone.

When he heard about the raid last week Peter Sunde, one of the site’s original founders, said that he did not like what the site had become.

“The site was ugly, full of bugs, old code and old design,” he wrote in a blog post.

Mr Sunde went on to criticise the explicit nature of the adverts which appeared on it.

“It never changed except for one thing – the ads. More and more ads were filling the site, and somehow when it felt unimaginable to make these ads more distasteful they somehow ended up even worse.”

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GCHQ app targets budding sleuths

Cryptoy

The government’s electronic monitoring agency GCHQ is releasing its first tablet computer app.

Cryptoy was created by three industrial placement students and tells the story of four historical cyphers, including the German Enigma code, cracked at Bletchley Park during World War Two.

The free app for Android devices also encrypts messages using the codes.

GCHQ says it is hoping it will help to encourage teenagers to be the next generation of cyber security experts.

Cryptoy also showcases the substitution and vigenere cyphers, and the shift, which dates back to Roman times.

A spokeswoman for Cheltenham-based GCHQ said the app is intended as a “fun teaching aid” to help 14-16 year olds studying at the Key Stage 4 level learn something about code making and code breaking.

‘Extremely relevant’

She said it aims to encourage them to become interested in associated disciplines such as mathematics, as well as problem solving and the necessary programming skills to create such an app.

“All of this is extremely relevant to today’s world where information security is increasingly important and where we need young people to study the subjects necessary,” she added.

The app was initially produced by the industrial placement students for the Cheltenham Festival cultural event last year.

The GCHQ spokeswoman said the agency was keen where possible to be open about some aspects of its work.

The BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said the public should have no qualms about downloading the app.

Cryptoy will be available to download directly from Google Play or through the GCHQ website. It is understood that a version for Apple iPads will not be available until next year.

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Drone flown 20ft from Heathrow jet

DiagramThe pilot was at a ‘critical’ phase of the flight, the report said

The moment a device believed to have been a drone came within 20ft (6m) of a plane landing at Heathrow Airport has been described in a report by an air safety body.

The Airbus A320 was at 700ft (213m) when its pilot saw a small black object near the aircraft, the UK Airprox (aircraft proximity) Board (UKAB) said.

The report does not identify the airline or where the plane was arriving from.

The drone operator could not be traced.

‘Critical phase’

The object “passed about 20ft over the wing” and appeared to be a small radio-controlled helicopter, the report said.

It did not strike the plane and the pilot was able to make a normal landing, at 14:16 BST on July 22.



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The report said it happened in a ‘critical phase’

“It was a distraction during a critical phase of flight,” the report added.

Air traffic controllers were told of the incident and the aircraft behind were notified.

The UKAB said: “Despite extensive tracing action and the proactive assistance of local model flying club members, it was not possible to trace the operator of the model aircraft in question.”

It said in summary: “The board members were satisfied that the A320 crew had seen a model helicopter and were of the unanimous opinion that the operator of the model had chosen to fly it in an entirely inappropriate location.

“That the dangers associated with flying such a model in close proximity to a commercial air transport aircraft in the final stages of landing were not self-evident was a cause for considerable concern.”

A Heathrow spokesman said the “unauthorised use of unmanned aerial vehicles in proximity to an airfield is both irresponsible and illegal”.

He said that Heathrow pursued prosecution for violation of airspace.

In October, Birmingham University warned the use of drones in the UK would rise over the next 20 years, raising “significant safety, security, and privacy concerns”.

The airline pilots’ association Balpa has demanded better protection for the public against the risks.

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Historic Apple 1 sold at auction

Apple 1The Apple 1 sold for way under the estimated price

A fully operational Apple 1 computer has been sold at auction for $365,000 (£230,000).

It is the only machine known to have been personally sold by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, from a garage in California in 1976.

Fewer than 50 Apple 1 computers are now believed to be in existence.

Yet despite its rarity, the machine was sold at way below auction house Christie’s estimate of $400,000-$600,000.

In October, the Henry Ford organization paid $905,000 for one of the computers.

The original Apple Computer – now referred to as the Apple 1 – was hand-made by Steve Wozniak, an engineer who co-founded Apple, with Jobs, in the 1970s. When new, the machines sold for $666.66.

To finance the building of the machines, Jobs sold his VW van, while Wozniak sold a calculator for $500.

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