Four male employees at an Apple store in Brisbane, Australia, have reportedly been fired for allegedly stealing, sharing and rating photos from customers' phones. The Courier-Mail reported on Thursday (12 October) that some staff members at the store in the Westfield mall in Carindale, Brisbane, had allegedly swiped photos from some Apple customers' iPhones and took more than 100 close-up and explicit photos of both female customers and staff without their knowledge.
The employees then shared them with staff members at other Queensland stores, giving each victim a ranking out of 10.
"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 unnamed staff member told the Courier-Mail.
Female employees at the Carindale store have not been informed who was involved in the photo-sharing ring, the newspaper reports.
"Everyone feels uncomfortable and the female staff don't know how to feel because the leadership won't tell staff who is involved," the staff member said. "Denying the girls the right to know what has gone on is hiding the guys away from the full brunt of the consequences."
The alleged privacy breach was flagged after a staff member noticed a technician scrolling through a customer's phone in the repair room earlier in October. A human resources manager has been flown out to Australia to deal with the issue, the publication reported.
Apple confirmed in a statement that it was investigating the issue.
"Apple believe in treating everyone equally and with respect, and we do not tolerate behaviour that goes against our values," the company said in a statement to the Courier-Mail. "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."
However, the Cupertino company stated that its investigation so far has found no evidence that customer data or photos were inappropriately transferred or that anyone was photographed by staff members.
"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," Apple said in a statement, Mashable reports. "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."
Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim said his office was aware of the reports and was making enquiries regarding the matter, the Australian Financial Review reports.
"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," Pilgrim said. "Organisations must also take reasonable steps to protect the personal information it holds from misuse, interference and loss, as well as unauthorised access, modification or disclosure."