An employee uses a facial recognition device as she swipes her badge to enter the assembly line area at a Pegatron factory in Shanghai in 2016. Photo by Bloomberg.
Policy Apple

Apple Forbids Facial Scanning of Employees—But Not Factory Workers

Photo: An employee uses a facial recognition device as she swipes her badge to enter the assembly line area at a Pegatron factory in Shanghai in 2016. Photo by Bloomberg.

Apple says privacy is a “fundamental human right,” and shielding people’s privacy is the cornerstone of the company’s public relations fight against rivals such as Google and Facebook. But those privacy concerns don’t necessarily apply to the workers who make its products.

Apple recently told its manufacturing partners that they can no longer collect biometric data such as fingerprints or facial scans of Apple employees who visit their facilities, according to an internal Apple document reviewed by The Information. However, the new rule doesn’t pertain to the more than 1 million workers employed by those manufacturers who make its products, many of whom must submit to these scans to enter areas where new Apple products are made. The exemption for Apple employees appears to contrast with the company’s stance that its human rights policy, which contains privacy provisions, extends to “business partners and people at every level of its supply chain.”

The new rule is part of Apple’s updated factory security guidelines, which aims to better preserve its employees’ privacy while toughening the measures used by factory owners to prevent prototypes, designs and other intellectual property from being stolen or shared with outsiders. The latest guidelines require manufacturers to conduct criminal background checks of their workers, the first time Apple has called on them to do so. The rules also mandate increased use of surveillance cameras at facilities and upgrades to factory systems that track components during the production process in order to prevent theft.

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