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China discovers underground network of Apple employees selling iPhone users’ data

The criminals brought in more than $7 million.


Phillip Tracy


Published Jun 8, 2017   Updated May 23, 2021, 3:50 am CDT

Some of the workers who build your iPhones in China found a way to overcome Apple’s notoriously low wages: selling your personal data on the black market.

Chinese authorities in Zhejiang (just south of Shanghai) claim to have discovered a large underground network of Apple employees selling users’ computer and phone data to get some extra cash.

Twenty-two people have been arrested on charges of using Apple’s internal systems to take iPhone users’ sensitive information and selling it in markets in China, according to a statement from local Zhejiang police. Authorities say they spent months investigating the crimes. A coordinated effort by police across four Chinese provinces dismantled the illegal network over the weekend and led to the seizure of “illegal tools” including a number of computers, mobile phones, and bank cards.

Officials say the stolen data, which included Apple IDs, names, and phone numbers, was sold for between $1.50 and $26 each. A total of 50 million yuan, or around $7.3 million, was generated from the illegal sales.

The statement did not say whether the data belonged to Apple customers within China or other regions. We also do not know how many people were affected by the activity, nor who is now in possession of the stolen information. The Daily Dot has reached out to Apple for comment on the news, including any guidance for users concerned about their privacy, and will update this article if and when we receive a response. Update 3:0pm CT, June 8: Apple declined to comment.

Apple’s reputation for producing some of the most secure devices makes this incident especially alarming. It raises questions on what rules are in place for keeping employees from accessing user data, and whether this is an issue other manufacturers struggle to deal with.

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*First Published: Jun 8, 2017, 10:04 am CDT