Apple has found itself at the centre of a photo-stealing scandal in Australia after a bombshell report from The Courier-Mail published Thursday alleged that multiple employees from an Apple Store in Brisbane have been fired for stealing customers’ photos from their phones, and secretly taking photos of them, in order to “rank their bodies.”
The Australian Privacy Commissioner is now looking into the alleged covert photo-sharing ring.
Apple denies that any customers’ photos were stolen — telling The Guardian that it has seen “no evidence that customer data or photos were inappropriately transferred or that anyone was photographed by these former employees.”
But it has confirmed that “several employees” have been fired, and that the company is investigating a “violation of Apple’s business conduct policy.”
Apple did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Here are the key details of The Courier-Mail’s initial report:
- Apple Store employees working at the Carindale store were allegedly stealing photos from customers’ phones without their knowledge.
- They were also allegedly taking photos of female customers and staff. “More than 100 close-up and explicit photos” were apparently taken, the newspaper said.
- Employees then allegedly traded them among themselves. “One person would take a photo and add it to the chat and others would give the person or their butt or their boobs a rating out of 10 and they would add their own side commentary,” an Apple employee said.
- This behaviour was allegedly discovered after an Apple employee found a technician using a customer’s phone in the repair room.
- Four employees, all male, have been fired.
In a statement, Apple told The Courier-Mail: “Apple believe in treating everyone equally and with respect, and we do not tolerate behaviour that goes against our values. We are investigating a violation of Apple’s business conduct policy at our store in Carindale, where several employees have already been terminated as a result of our findings.”
“Based on our investigation thus far, we have seen no evidence that customer data or photos were inappropriately transferred or that anyone was photographed by these former employees,” it said. “We have met with our store team to let them know about the investigation and inform them about the steps Apple is taking to protect their privacy.”
Exactly what Apple means by “anyone” is unclear, but it leaves open the possibility that it is referring only to customers — and that other staff members were indeed photographed.
If not, it is unclear on what grounds “several employees” were fired.
The Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, said (via the BBC): “We are aware of the reports and will be making enquiries with Apple to seek further information … This is an important reminder that all organisations that collect and manage personal information need to embed a culture of privacy and ensure employees understand their responsibilities.”