Manufacturers would love for you to think that independent repair is risky. That by giving your phone to a stranger, you’re giving them full access to the private, personal information contained within. But as Gloria Fuentes learned firsthand, that information is not safe with Apple Store employees, either.
After bringing her phone into the Genius Bar at the Bakersfield Apple Store, Fuentes found that an Apple employee had used her phone to text himself an intimate photo from her gallery, she wrote on Facebook.
Apple says they fired the employee in question, but as the Washington Post notes, this is far from the first time this has happened. Another woman had the same thing happen at an authorized Verizon retail store mere weeks ago, and in 2016 an Australian Apple store found that multiple Apple employees were taking photos of customers and stealing photos from their phones.
These incidents aren’t an indictment of every single employee at Apple, Verizon, and other large companies, of course. They’re the actions of individual people, who can be “fallible and occasionally evil.” But the manufacturers use privacy as a lynchpin in their lobbying against right to repair. In a radio interview last year, Earl Crane of the Security Innovation Center said that the organization opposed right to repair because “We want to be able to provide security and have accountability for the security that an organization needs to provide.” Other representatives of the anti-repair group, who we believe is indirectly funded by Apple, have said similar things in the past, claiming that independent repair can compromise security and privacy.
I’d like to see them explain that to Gloria Fuentes.
The only hands you can truly trust are your own. As Crane himself said in that same radio interview: “If you ask any cybersecurity professional, if I can get my hands on the device, I have a much higher likelihood and a strong advantage in compromising the integrity of that device.” That goes for everyone, not just independent shops, and any other cybersecurity expert would tell you the same thing. It’s the principle behind open-source software (if anyone can examine the code, anyone can point out security issues), end-to-end encryption (if only you hold the key, not even the company can read your data), and the right to repair. If you can repair your own device at home, why risk giving it to someone you don’t know?
That’s not to say you shouldn’t get your phone repaired at Apple, or an independent shop (who, by the way, can perform repairs manufacturers like Apple will refuse outright.) But manufacturer-run shops, who are trying to stymie those independent businesses, are no more or less trustworthy than anyone else. They’re run by people: regular, fallible, people.
If you do take your device to someone else for a repair—whether it’s a shop run by the manufacturer or it’s a local mom-and-pop business—back up and wipe your phone before handing it over. Or, at the very least, avoid giving them your passcode. But if you truly trust no one, your best bet is replace that battery yourself. It’s easier than you think, not to mention cheaper. If the only hands that touch your device are your own, you can be much more secure in the knowledge that no one’s tampered with your private data.
I don’t think that Apple has claimed privacy as a justification. Besides, there is a very big difference between handing over a device and handing over the credentials for it. I’ve been on both sides of that transaction, and I don’t really understand why you would ever do the latter willingly.
Jeremy Saklad - Reply
As an independent tech there is often times I need people's passwords to access the phone in order to do the repair, particularly for chargeports, cameras and a few other things. Fortunately for my customers my sexual deviancy days stayed back in my 20s, befo4e I started phone repair, however i wouldn't trust anyone male under 40 with my device, not one of us are different, some perhaps have a little more self control than others, but we all have the same desires, no one can be trusted.
Brad Phone Screens -
Apple has absolutely used privacy and data security as an excuse in their fight against Right to Repair. I have had Apple repair my iPhones and Macbooks numerous times, and it is common practice for the tech to request my devices be unlocked as certain functions can’t be tested otherwise. Once that device goes back behind the door there is zero assurances your data won’t be downloaded or otherwise transferred and for every one tech that is caught there is a hundred more that aren’t. There is a reason why back when I used to repair phones and laptops as a side business in college I ALWAYS did so in front of the customer whenever possible. Women especially appreciated this.
johnnycashak - Reply
C’est une question de conscience professionnelle et d’éducation aussi. Jamais il ne me passerait par la tête de regarder les photos ou autres chose de privé dans le téléphone d’un client. J’en répare tout les jours et ça ne me passe pas par l’esprit de faire ça. J’ai une conscience professionnelle et une éducation, qui m’a inculqué le respect de la vie des autres .
Alors il est facile de blâmer les entreprises . Comme il est facile pour Apple de dire que l’on ne doit pas faire confiance aux réparateurs indépendants. La seule façon que cela ne se passe plus, c’est l’éducation . Que le respect redevienne quelque chose de fondamental. Que l’amour du travail bien fait, dans le respect du client, ne soit plus un luxe, ou un état d’esprit en voie de disparition.
yvaneck - Reply
Anyway you’ve got to be b…y stupid to trust very personal photos or documents to your iphone….or android,even if you are naïve enough to imagine that you erased them before handing over your precious device to any tech. Almost any geek can recover “erased” data
Ivan Dagorn - Reply