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Ex-employee accuses Apple of training iPhone biometrics by violating staff privacy

Ex-employee accuses Apple of training iPhone biometrics by violating staff privacy

Apple was questioned about where it collected the 1 billion images it trained the Face ID biometric algorithm with by a member of U.S. Congress back in 2017, but no direct answer was offered. Now, an ex-employee of the company is taking it to court in Europe over sourcing those training images from its staff, The Telegraph reports.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken requested information on a range of points when Apple first introduced face biometrics to the iPhone X, some but not all of which was provided in the company’s response.

Former Apple employee Ashley Gjøvik was placed on administrative leave after complaining to the company about a sexist work environment, and then was fired, she says for raising concerns about violations of staff privacy. She has also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in the U.S.

The company invited its employees to participate in product testing, and sometimes to have their biometrics collected, but Gjøvik says the testing and collection seemed to be mandatory. She describes the use of Apple’s internal Gobbler app (later called Glimmer) to upload personal data employees had collected to company servers, and directly claims that employee data is the source of the billion images used to train Face ID.

France’s data protection authority CNIL and the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office have each confirmed that they are investigating the allegations, according to TechCrunch, and other regulators are listed in the complaint but have not confirmed investigations.

Ultimately, Gjøvik is alleging non-disclosure agreements and employee privacy policies that do not meet legal standards.

Controversy around the origin of biometric training data has led to lawsuits and recent ethical commitments from biometrics developers.

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