Information Technology and Ethics/Privacy in the News
Apple Inc. has been in the headlines multiple time for privacy issues dealing with both government actions and a class action lawsuit. Due to the nature of their products Apple has made an effort to ensure that their customers’ data is protected beyond the industry standard, which includes a level of data protection that has frustrated federal attempts to retrieve data pertinent to investigations. Additionally, in the many class action lawsuits brought against Apple, two in particular pertain specifically to privacy, and set a fairly prominent precedent in the industry.
Class Action SuitsEdit
In 2010 two class action lawsuits, later consolidated into one case by the courts, were filed against Apple and several other parties . These suits claimed that the app makers whose apps were collecting data about the users, were passing the information to third parties without permission from the users . This data included among other things geolocation data, which is considered to be incredibly valuable . Because of this value the plaintiffs sued not only for the defendants to change their activities, but also for monetary compensation . In 2011 Apple filed a motion to dismiss for lack of Article III standing, which was granted by the court (https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=11552215207215157219).
Stengart v. Loving Care Agency, Inc. The plaintiff Marina Stengart (former employee now) was having her emails exchanged with her attorney via her personal web-based email account. The communication was being done on her employer-given computer which, as a result, contains a monitoring system that saves every web page visited on the computer. After Stengart had left the company, she then filed a suit against the company for invading employee privacy. The company had retrieved the emails between Stengart and the attorney that were being used in the litigation. Stengart argued that the company cannot reveal the emails during the litigation because the emails between her and the attorney were private.The court found that the policy disclosure failed to inform employees that the company could have visibility over personal web-based email accounts. The policy also did not state that the company would be monitoring content of email communication made through employee’s personal email while being done on company-given computers. While the court was in favor to Stengart, it suggested that if employers wished to look over a computer that contained emails in personal email accounts, then the employers will need to inform employees with a clear and specific message that such a policy exists.
Robert G. Ozer v. Borquez The employee was a homosexual in which he had let his employer know that his partner was diagnosed with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The employer had disclosed the confidential information to other employees and one week later, the employee was fired. The employee filed a suit against the employer stating that the employer had wrongfully discharged him and invaded his privacy. These actions made by the employer violated Colorado lawful activities making it unfair and employee’s lawful incidents outside the workplace. The employer revealed private information about the employee which he requested to be kept confidential. The jury held in favor of the employee for violation of right to privacy.
Via v. Taylor A former employee of the Delaware Department of Correction states that the employer had wrongfully terminated the employee as a result of her off-duty relationship with a paroled former inmate. The Department of Corrections has a policy that does not allow employees to have any sort of interactions with offenders outside of work. The plaintiff requested a Motion for Reinstatement along without any loss of salary or rank since her unlawful termination from the defendant. The defendant in response said that the plaintiff is not allowed to be reinstated because she was let go due to “insubordination” and if reinstated could have the plaintiff be in a dangerous precedent, and the position has been already filled. The court finds that they are in favor of plaintiff since the defendant failed to show any evidence of aversion between the plaintiff and those she worked with, so the plaintiff is entitled to full reinstatement.
Then again in 2014 Chen Ma, represented by the Law Offices of Adam Wang, filed a class action lawsuit against Apple on behalf of over 100 million users . Ma claimed that the Terms of Service did not allow for Apple to be able to collect the length of time which users spent at various locations . The case was voluntarily dropped by Ma and Wang in 2015 .
In 2016 the federal courts attempted to use the All Writs Act to compel Apple to create a program which could override the security measures in iOS devices in an effort to retrieve evidence from the phone of a member of a terrorist attack . In a response to this demand Apple CEO Tim Cook issued an open letter to the public explaining the situation, and explaining why he would insist on not complying with the request . The debate over the issue extended beyond simply unlocking one phone, and entailed whether or not this would give the government master-key access to every iOS device in circulation . In March of 2016 the federal courts released a statement revealing that they had acquired access to the information on the device without Apple’s assistance, but instead that of Cellbrite, an Israeli tech firm . On April 14th 2016 Apple received the vulnerability report from the FBI according to the Vulnerabilities Equities Process .
In recent years, Wikileaks is one of the biggest mainstream breaches of cyber privacy around the world. Wikileaks is similar to other privacy breaches in recent news, notably the Edward Snowden controversy, in that they mostly focus on government misconduct. Wikileaks is a website founded by an Australian man named Julian Assange. Assange states that the website is dedicated to publishing and commenting on leaked documents alleging government and corporate misconduct and to this day has over 90,000 published documents ranging from both U.S and British action during the Afghanistan War to operating procedures of Guantanamo bay to classified military documents. The website first got mainstream attention in 2006 when it was created as a platform for whistleblowers to post sensitive information while remaining anonymous and has evolved into what it is today. The first major controversy that included Wikileaks occurred in 2008 when they exposed Swiss banker, Julius Baer, for money laundering and provided documentation to confirm their claim. Then, in 2010, Wikileaks had published a video of U.S. military helicopter strike on Baghdad which resulted in the arrest of the American soldier, Bradley Manning. Throughout these years and continuing to 2012, Wikileaks reported on the Afghanistan War and published a large amount of classified documents including diplomatic cables involving the United States and written accounts from soldiers in the war claiming that the U.S. had ignored potential cases of torture by Iraqi authorities on civilians. The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, also went on to write a book titled, “When Google Met Wikileaks,” in which he recounts an interview he had with Google. In this, he reveals why he founded wikileaks stating, “I looked at something that I had seen going on with the world, which is that I thought there were too many unjust acts. And I wanted there to be more just acts, and fewer unjust acts,” and he thought that the best way to change that would be to give the people a small amount of information in the hopes to change the behavior of people that now have this information.   
Robert G. Ozer v. Borquez