Apple call center workers face pressure to accept home surveillance, cameras to monitor work performance

Colombia-based call center workers who provide outsourced customer service to some of the nation’s largest companies, including Apple, are being pressured to sign a contract that lets their employer install surveillance cameras in their homes to monitor work performance, an NBC News investigation has found.

iPhone 12 Pro Max camera system

Olivia Solon for NBC News:

Six workers based in Colombia for Teleperformance, one of the world’s largest call center companies, which counts Apple, Amazon and Uber among its clients, said that they are concerned about the new contract, first issued in March. The contract allows monitoring by AI-powered cameras in workers’ homes, voice analytics and storage of data collected from the worker’s family members, including minors. Teleperformance employs more than 380,000 workers globally, including 39,000 workers in Colombia.

“The contract allows constant monitoring of what we are doing, but also our family,” said a Bogota-based worker on the Apple account who was not authorized to speak to the news media. “I think it’s really bad. We don’t work in an office. I work in my bedroom. I don’t want to have a camera in my bedroom.”

The worker said that she signed the contract, a copy of which NBC News has reviewed, because she feared losing her job. She said that she was told by her supervisor that she would be moved off the Apple account if she refused to sign the document. She said the additional surveillance technology has not yet been installed.

The document asks workers to agree to having video cameras installed in their home or on their computers, pointing at their workspace, to record and monitor workers in real time. It also states that workers agree to Teleperformance using AI-powered video analysis tools that can identify objects around the workspace, including mobile phones, paper and other items that are restricted by Teleperformance’s security policies. They must also agree to sharing data and images related to any children they have under the age of 18 — who might get picked up by video and audio monitoring tools — and to sharing biometric data including fingerprints and photos. There is also a clause that requires workers to take polygraph tests if requested.

[Teleperformance spokesman Mark Pfeiffer] said that cameras were used for spot checks of the company’s clean desk policy and occasionally to ensure compliance with data security processes and that no data is recorded from employees. He said that the AI-powered video analysis was currently being tested in just three of Teleperformance’s markets. He said that employees consented to sharing biometric data and that polygraphs are used in specific security studies with employees’ consent.

Peter Walker for The Guardian:

Teleperformance – which employs about 380,000 people in 34 countries and counts dozens of major UK companies and government departments among its clients – has told some staff that specialist webcams will be fitted to check for home-working “infractions”.

While these will in part be used for team meetings and training, the cameras are also connected to an artificial intelligence system that will randomly scan for breaches of work rules during a shift. If one is detected, a still photo will be sent to a manager and stored for up to 20 days, according to documents sent to staff.

If workers need to leave their desks, for example to have a drink, they will have to click “break mode” in an app to explain why – for example, “getting water” – to avoid being reported for a breach.

Eating while on shift is not permitted, staff are told. “If the system detects no keyboard stroke and mouse click, it will show you as idle for that particular duration, and it will be reported to your supervisor. So please avoid hampering your productivity.”

MacDailyNews Take: Even though Apple’s “privacy” marketeers are having an existential sort of week, a spokesperson for Apple, Nick Leahy, told MacRumors that Apple “prohibits the use of video or photographic monitoring by our suppliers and have confirmed Teleperformance does not use video monitoring for any of their teams working with Apple.”


    1. Hello,

      Your friendly “How to Read the ‘News'” helper here. How are you today?

      Okay, so what we actually have in this case is:

      • A Bogota-based worker on the Apple account says the Apple supplier is demanding cameras.

      • An Apple spokesman saying that the company “prohibits the use of video or photographic monitoring by our suppliers and have confirmed Teleperformance does not use video monitoring for any of their teams working with Apple.”

      So, this does not result in a “non-story” or even a “non story,” whatever that is, but rather a DISPUTED story. You seem to be choosing the corporation’s statement 100% and fully discounting everything else in the rest of the report.

      This is, of course, your right. But, it doesn’t mean that your conclusion is right.

    2. Yes, it might be a story but it is not a story about “Apple Call Center Workers.” It is a story (a disputed story) about an independent contractor that sells its services to Apple pursuant to a written contract that specifically prohibits them from doing this sort of monitoring. This is just like all the stories about overworked “Apple Workers” diving off the roof of Foxconn plants that turned out to be making Microsoft products.

      My guess is that the same people who object to companies supervising their home workers were posting here a few weeks ago demanding that Apple force all its employees back into the office because unsupervised work at home was a very bad thing.

      1. “This is just like all the stories about overworked “Apple Workers” diving off the roof of Foxconn plants that turned out to be making Microsoft products.”

        LIE! Apple apologist TxUseless would have you believe the suicides were a result of workers only making Microsoft products so as to deflect blame from Apple is despicable and totally FALSE!! 👎🏻👎🏻

        A dose of REALITY:

        “In 2010, 14 workers committed suicide at factories in China operated by Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn. These are the giant facilities that produce consumer electronic devices for Hewlett-Packard, Dell and, most famously, Apple.” — Mar 2, 2018

        One life is too many.

        “When I look back at the photos I snapped, I can’t find one that has someone smiling in it. It does not seem like a surprise that people subjected to long hours, repetitive work and harsh management might develop psychological issues. That unease is palpable – it’s worked into the environment itself. As Xu said: “It’s not a good place for human beings.”

        Thanks Tim, full story:

        The BIG ONE NYT’s Pulitzer: “For its penetrating look into business practices by Apple and other technology companies that illustrates the darker side of a changing global economy for workers and consumers.”

        Case closed…

  1. Apple, in one week, has gone from Champion of Privacy to the creepiest tech comp out there… and did it blatantly in your face! with no shame!

    I see a class action lawsuit coming!

    1. What class? What cause of action?

      I don’t see a court certifying a class of “Persons who were prevented from uploading images of children being abused to Apple’s servers,” or even a class of “Columbian citizens working in Columbia for a Colombian corporation who did not like the terms of a contract they voluntarily signed with their employer and want to sue one of their employer’s many customers because Apple is rich.”

      1. The class action would be that Apple misled consumers. Many, many customers buy and bought Apple products because of its promise and reputation for privacy. To remove that violates that understanding and how its products were sold, in addition to being a privacy threat on its own. I believe we’ll actually be seeing such a court action in the not too distant future.

        1. Indeed! Hopefully every iPhone owner in the world will join a class action lawsuit if available and SUE the hell out of Apple for breach of security terms of service and previous sales under false pretenses…

  2. This is all based on a disputed story by a “ contractor “ and not an Actual Apple employee. Apple wouldn’t do this… that’s just crazy . Now the 3rd party company this person actually works for might do this but I can’t speak on that matter. All I know is so have worked for Apple as a badged employee for 12 years … 8 of those working full time from home and there has never been mention or use of a camera to monitor us. It’s simply not needed. If your not doing your job there are metrics that will show that .

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