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Apple’s Rotten Business: Malpractice, Tax Dodging, and Surveillance for Profit

Apple is the most valuable brand in the world, worth an approximate $98 billion. One would expect that such a company would be above taking financial short cuts but a January 2014 assessment by Nicki Lisa Cole at Counterpunch reveals disturbing malpractices by the company, including profiting from unregulated tin mining in Indonesia, unlawful labor in China, tax evasion, gouging the Los Angeles public school system, and using surveillance technology for profit.

In 2013 many tech companies admitted to purchasing tin, used in soldering virtually every electronic device, from unregulated mines in Indonesia. Apple however refused to disclose where it sources its tin, even after Friends of the Earth, an international network of environmental organizations, mobilized 25,000 people to write to the company in protest. Use of unlawful labor extends into China where reports from SACOM and China Labor Watch document deplorable working conditions, including 100-hour workweeks, high levels of underage student labor, and unlivable wages—even though Apple had joined the Fair Labor Association in 2012.

Cole also reports on iBeacon, an app for the company’s popular iPhone and iPad that Apple claims acts as a “personal shopper.” Specifically, the program pushes sales offers and notifications to customers as they browse Apple stores. Privacy advocates have warned against this kind of location- and context-aware advertising for years. “While Apple has taken a public stance against the widespread digital surveillance of the PRISM program,” Cole writes, “the company clearly has no moral qualms about using surveillance technology for its own profit.”

News of Apple’s mercenary business practices have begun to emerge in US corporate media and may be gathering steam, particularly since the New York Times covered Apple’s tax evasion record and the Los Angeles Times’ reporting on Apple’s $1 billion dollar deal with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Source: Nicki Lisa Cole, “Apple’s Top Crimes of 2013,” Counterpunch, January 1, 2014, http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/01/apples-top-crimes-of-2013/

Student Researcher: Bryan Brennen (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)

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