Apple settles with student after authorized repair workers leaked her naked pics to her Facebook page

Which pours cold water over Cupertino's insistence that third-party fixes violate privacy


Apple has paid a multimillion-dollar settlement to an unnamed Oregon college student after one of its outsourced repair facilities posted explicit pictures and videos of her to her Facebook page.

According to legal documents obtained by The Telegraph, the incident occurred in 2016 at a Pegatron-owned repair centre in Sacramento, California. The student had mailed in her device to have an unspecified fault fixed.

While it was at the facility, two technicians published a series of photographs showing the complainant unclothed to her Facebook account, as well as a "sex video." The complaint said the post was made in a way that impersonated the victim, and was only removed after friends informed her of its existence.

The two men responsible were fired after an investigation. It is not known if the culprits faced criminal charges.

Much of the details of the case, as well as the exact size of the settlement, were sealed. Lawyers for the plaintiff sought a $5m payout. The settlement included non-disclosure provisions that prevented the student from revealing details about the case, or the exact size of the compensation.

Counsel for the victim threatened to sue for infliction of emotional distress, as well as invasion of privacy. The filings show they warned Apple that any lawsuit would result in inevitable negative publicity for the company.

Pegatron settled with the victim separately, per the filings.

In its fight against the right to repair, Apple has argued that allowing independent third-party businesses to service its computers and smartphones would present an unacceptable risk to user privacy and security.

This incident, which occurred at the facilities of an authorised contractor, has undercut that argument somewhat.

It follows a similar incident in November 2019, where a Genius Bar employee texted himself an explicit image taken from an iPhone he was repairing. After the victim complained, the employee was fired.

In a 13-minute video, prolific right-to-repair activist Louis Rossmann accused Apple of hypocrisy due to its framing of independent repair as inherently unsafe.

"When it comes to right-to-repair, a lot of the arguments are that if [we] get access to a charging chip, so that when the charging chip inside your laptop dies and he can fix it without charging you $1,500, then he's going to breach your privacy. He's going to go through your data, hack you," he said.

"When we need to get out to people is that when you go to the dealer, they may use different parts and have different repair procedures, but at the end of the day, they're no better at filtering out creeps than us."

The Register has asked Apple to comment. In a statement to The Telegraph, the iGiant said: "We take the privacy and security of our customers' data extremely seriously and have a number of protocols in place to ensure data is protected throughout the repair process.  When we learned of this egregious violation of our policies at one of our vendors in 2016, we took immediate action and have since continued to strengthen our vendor protocols." ®

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