Criticism of Apple Inc.
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Apple Inc. is a multinational American technology company which designs, develops, and sells consumer electronics. Criticism of Apple includes unethical business practices such as anti-competitive behavior, rash litigation, and dubious tax tactics, their production methods involving the use of sweatshop labor, customer service issues involving misleading warranties and insufficient data security, and concerns about environmental destruction. Additionally, it has been criticized for its alleged collaboration with U.S. surveillance program, PRISM.
- 1 Accusations of anti-competitive behavior
- 2 App Store compensation conflict
- 3 John Wiley & Sons and "iCon: Steve Jobs"
- 4 Price reductions
- 5 Media relations
- 6 Labor practices
- 7 Tax practices
- 8 Quality control and customer service issues
- 9 Misleading warranty claims
- 10 Vexatious litigation
- 11 Environmental destruction claims
- 12 Collaboration with the National Security Agency
- 13 Planned obsolescence
- 14 See also
- 15 Notes
- 16 References
Accusations of anti-competitive behavior
Vendor lock-in practices
Apple has been criticized for the use of proprietary parts and screws on their late MacBook models and recent iPhone products. In mid-2012, Apple introduced the Retina display MacBook Pro with a slimmer and lighter design. After its release, many criticized the new MacBook Pro design that it introduced trade offs that included soldered RAM onto the motherboard, a glued battery on the aluminum uni-body chassis, the LED screen was fused onto the glass, and the use of a proprietary PCI-E solid-state drive as opposed to a SATA interface. Many criticized these practices as a way for Apple to keep consumers out of the hardware they purchased, as well as eliminating self-repair from the consumer. iFixit, an electronics do-it-yourself website, named the 2012 Retina MacBook Pro "the least repairable notebook on the market."
Apple has similarly faced controversy for the closed ecosystem surrounding its music store; Because of this, Steve Jobs was ordered to attend a court hearing regarding antitrust violations specifically with iPods and iTunes. Apple has not licensed its FairPlay DRM, or its formerly proprietary lossless format codec Apple Lossless (ALAC), to any other company, thus preventing content—either purchased from the iTunes store, or Apple Lossless encoded in the iTunes computer application or bought from non-iTunes sources—from being used on other manufacturers' devices. As of April 2009[update], all music on the iTunes Store is DRM-free, however this does not apply to other content. The Apple Lossless (ALAC) codec was reverse-engineered and an independent encoder and decoder was released. In 2011, Apple made the original ALAC source code available under the Apache license.
Apple was caught up in controversy regarding the online sales of music in the European Union where, as a single market, customers are free to purchase goods and services from any member state. iTunes Stores there forced consumers and other music buyers to iTunes-only sites by restricting content purchases to the country from which the customers' payment details originated, which in turn forced users in some countries to pay higher prices. On December 3, 2004, the British Office of Fair Trading referred the iTunes Music Store to the European Commission for violation of EU free-trade legislation. Apple commented that they did not believe they violated EU law, but were restricted by legal limits to the rights granted to them by the music labels and publishers. PC World commented that it appeared that "the Commission's main target is not Apple but the music companies and music rights agencies, which work on a national basis and give Apple very little choice but to offer national stores".
Google Voice controversy
Apple has been criticized over attempting to prevent iPhone users from using the Google Voice application by disabling it on the iPhone. Apple declined to approve the Google application for use on the iPhone, claiming that the application altered iPhone intended functionality, i.e., that with Google voice installation, voicemail is no longer routed to the iPhone's native application Visual Voicemail but instead is routed through Google's application, thus "ruining" the iPhone user experience. This caused controversy among iPhone developers and users, and the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began investigating Apple's active decision to deny users' ability to install Google Voice from the Apple online store from where users routinely download and install iPhone applications. As of November 2010, Google Voice has been made available for the iPhone.
Adobe Flash prohibition on iOS
With the release of iOS 4.0 SDK, Apple changed its terms of service to prohibit programs that are originally written in non-Apple approved languages from being used on the iPhone. This was criticized for being anti-competitive by disallowing use of Adobe Flash and other programs on the iPhone. The New York Times quoted an Adobe employee alleging the policy to be anti-competitive. On May 3, 2010, Ars Technica and The New York Post reported that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) are deciding which agency will launch an antitrust investigation into the matter.
The controversy over Apple's changes to section 3.3.1 of the iPhone SDK license agreement erupted after John Gruber's April 8, 2010, Daring Fireball blog post entitled, New iPhone Developer Agreement Bans the Use of Adobe's Flash-to-iPhone. Strong opposition to Apple's licensing changes spread quickly with bloggers and others. Others were quick to note that the language used in the agreement also banned other developer tools including MonoTouch, Lua, Unity, and many others.
The original iPhone OS 3 section 3.3.1 reads:
- 3.3.1 Applications may only use Published APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any unpublished or private APIs.
The revised iPhone OS 4 section 3.3.1 reads:
Steve Jobs posted a reaction entitled "Thoughts on Flash", but did not directly address any third party development tools other than Adobe's Flash platform. The "Thoughts on Flash" post drew immediate and harsh criticism with Steve Jobs being accused of outright lying by many.
Collusion with record labels
In May 2015, it was reported that the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission were beginning to investigate Apple for engaging in a cartel with major record labels that discourage them from offering free, ad-supported streaming of their music online, in order to push users towards a re-launch of the subscription-based Beats Music service. In particular, it was alleged that Apple had pushed labels to pull their music from the freemium tier of competing service Spotify (a service which has cut into Apple's music sales revenue), and offered to pay Universal Music Group the equivalent of YouTube's licensing fees with the label in exchange for pulling its content from the service.
App Store compensation conflict
In 2012, a group of Chinese writers won compensation from Apple for selling apps that contained unlicensed versions of their books. They had sought 50 million yuan ($7.7 million) in compensation but were awarded only $160,400.
John Wiley & Sons and "iCon: Steve Jobs"
In 2005, Steve Jobs, co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. banned all books published by John Wiley & Sons from the Apple retail stores in response to their publishing an unauthorized biography, iCon: Steve Jobs.
The book received criticism for "failing to cohesively and clearly express the opinion of Jobs, linguistic redundancies, and clumsy anecdotes." However, despite the criticisms of the quality of Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon's writing and the attempts to highlight Steve Jobs's "negative" characteristics as a boss and individual, thought leader Dan Sumption admitted that the book was a relatively entertaining view into the life of Steve Jobs.
Apple has been criticized for post-launch price reductions, most notably after the price of the iPhone was cut by $200 just two months after its release. This quick drop in price resulted in many complaints to Apple. Apple worked to rectify complaints by offering $100 store credit to early iPhone customers who had bought their iPhones from Apple or AT&T.
Apple has also been criticized for its methods of tightly controlling information regarding product launches, deliberately passing out misinformation in an effort to find leakers and keep the media unsure of Apple Inc.'s current developments. Therefore, Apple's methods result in more hype surrounding product launches. In some cases, Apple deliberately leaks information to the public to gauge potential viability of products such as the Apple iPad. Many attribute Apple's secrecy to Steve Jobs' reclusive nature where "he has always kept things close to the vest...and only confided in relatively few people."
Think Secret lawsuit
With regard to leaked information about new Apple products, Apple has been accused of pressuring journalists to release their sources, has filed lawsuits against unknown persons, "John Does", to find out how their product information has been leaked and has been chastised by the courts for doing so as an abuse of the legal discovery process. In particular, Apple fought a protracted battle against the Think Secret web site that resulted in a "positive solution for both sides". No sources were revealed.
In April 2010 a Gizmodo editor, Jason Chen, became the subject of legal controversy in San Mateo, California when the California Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (a multi-county task force that investigates high-tech crimes in the Silicon Valley area, of whose steering committee Apple is a member) seized computers from the editor's home office, ostensibly to investigate the reverse-engineering of an iPhone. The Gizmodo blog published an article the week prior about the iPhone product's future, including a product dissection, after Chen's purchase of a misplaced iPhone device. Gawker Media published the warrant on its website as an example of over-reaching by Apple and its improper use of law enforcement to police its patents. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has also come to the defense of Gizmodo, citing the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 that protects journalists from police "rummaging through sensitive information contained in a reporter's notes and communications" and the warrant served was too broad, as it included "all records and data located and/or stored on any computers, hard drives, or memory storage devices, located at the listed location."
In 2006, the Mail on Sunday alleged that sweatshop conditions existed in factories in China, where the contract manufacturers, Foxconn and Inventec, operate the factories that produce the iPod. The article stated that one iPod factory, as an example, employed over 200,000 workers who lived and worked in the factory, and regularly performed more than 60 hours of labor per week. The article also reported that workers made around US$100 per month and were required to live on the premises and pay for rent and food from the company. Living expenses—a requirement of keeping the job—typically required that employees spend a little over half of their earnings. The article also said that workers were given buckets to wash their clothes in.
Immediately after the allegation, Apple launched an investigation and worked with their manufacturers to ensure that conditions were acceptable by its standards. In 2007, Apple started yearly audits of the labor conditions of all its suppliers, slowly raising standards and severing relationships with suppliers that did not comply—yearly progress reports have also been published since 2008.
In 2010, workers in China planned to sue iPhone contractors over poisoning from a cleaner used to clean LCD screens. One worker claimed that they were not informed of possible occupational illnesses.
A 2014 BBC investigation found excessive hours and other problems persisted, despite Apple's promise to reform factory practice after the 2010 Foxconn suicides. The Pegatron factory was once again the subject of review, as reporters gained access to the working conditions inside through recruitment as employees. While the BBC maintained that the experiences of its reporters showed that labor violations were continuing since 2010, Apple publicly disagreed with the BBC and stated: "We are aware of no other company doing as much as Apple to ensure fair and safe working conditions".
In the period following these exposures, Apple has continued to receive criticism for its labor rights record. Reports in 2015 and 2016 from the labor rights organization, China Labor Watch, noted that Apple's supplier Pegatron's wages were too low to cover living costs by themselves, forcing workers to put in excessive amounts of overtime hours in order to make ends meet.
Safety problems and harsh working conditions
Workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor under harsh conditions, according to employees inside the Foxconn plants. According to company reports and advocacy, Apple's suppliers in China have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records.
Forty-nine young men and women were poisoned at the Lianjian Technology factory in Suzhou Industrial Park by the toxic chemical hexane, used to wipe clean the iPad display screens and speed up efficiency. To save money, the factory did not provide proper ventilation during the cleaning process, and workers developed neurological problems, the loss of motor function, numb limbs, and complained of constantly fainting and being overcome by a debilitating fatigue. Some of these sick workers were eventually bought off with a lump payment of 8,000 or 9,000 yuan (US$1,200–$1,400), but only after signing an agreement stating they would not bring claims against Apple or its supplier companies in the future.
An explosion in May 2011 at a Foxconn iPad factory in Chengdu, China, killed four people and injured 18. Employees worked excessive overtime—in some cases, seven days a week—and lived in crowded dorms. Some said they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk.
Student and child labor abuses
Foxconn’s use of students and minors is part of its pursuit of low-cost, flexible labor. When the fallout of the 2010 suicides left Foxconn with a labor shortage, the Henan provincial government assisted with the breach. The province directed 100,000 vocational students to staff the Shenzhen assembly lines as "interns" (the Chinese term shixi can also mean "trainee") after providing them with nine days’ notice. Students were told that those who failed to comply would not be allowed to graduate.
Interns have become a significant component of Foxconn’s labor force, constituting as high as 15 percent of the workforce—or 180,000 interns company-wide—at peak times, making it the largest "internship" program in the world. Teachers have been stationed in the factory compound to monitor attendance, and some interns have been as young as 14—by the company’s own admission—thereby violating Chinese laws. According to SACOM’s Chan, Foxconn, and other similar manufacturers, are "covertly" using interns to avoid detection and culpability. The young people are hired through the same labor agencies that hire Foxconn’s "dispatch workers," who are deprived of standard benefits and protections.
US-based China Labour Watch (CLW) investigated into conditions at three factories operated by Pegatron, which makes equipment for Apple computers and iPhones, and found that Pegatron hired children under the age of 18—the child laborers worked under the same poor conditions as adult staff. In total, 10,000 employees aged between 16 and 20 worked in crowded production rooms, performing the same tasks as adults. Some of the children were paid less, and others did not have their wages paid on time.
Apple–Foxconn business relationship
Apple’s considerable commercial success is partly attributable to the outsourcing of its consumer electronics production to Asia. As the principal manufacturer of products and components for Apple, Taiwanese company Foxconn employed 1.4 million China-based workers in 2013. The workers are part of China’s "floating population" of 200 million migrants, at the bottom of what Taiwanese tech entrepreneur Stan Shih calls "the smiling curve." Controlling the upturned edges of the smile—brand, design and engineering on one side, and marketing, sales, and external relations on the other—is what ensures major profit margins.
Apple, Foxconn and China’s workers are stakeholders in high-technology production, but relations between the three are perceived by analysts as imbalanced. Apple was able to capture 58.5 percent of the value of the iPhone, despite the fact that the manufacture of the product is entirely outsourced. Particularly notable is that labor costs in China account for the smallest share: 1.8 percent, or nearly US$10, of the US$549 retail price. While both Apple and Foxconn rely on Chinese workers to perform 12-hour working days to meet demand, the costs of Chinese labor in processing and assembly are insignificant in the overall commercial success of Apple. Other major component providers—such as Samsung and LG—captured slightly over 14 percent of the value of the iPhone, while the cost of raw materials was just over one-fifth of the total value (21.9 percent).
Wages average from $1 to $2 an hour for Foxconn workers, including overtime, and are dependent upon location—such rates are attractive by China's rural standards. Foxconn workers typically complete 50-hour work weeks and 12-hour shifts; however, work weeks of up to 100 hours are not unheard of during peak production periods. Foxconn workers typically cannot afford the iPads and iPhones they assemble.
In 2009 and 2010, the Foxconn factories at the Foxconn City industrial park in Longhua, Shenzhen, China, were heavily criticized in the press, with one source describing conditions as a "white collar prison." In 2009, Foxconn guards were videotaped beating employees.
Foxconn employee suicides
On July 16, 2009, Sun Danyong, a Chinese factory worker employed by Foxconn, committed suicide, after reporting that he lost a prototype model for a fourth generation iPhone. Upon filing his report on July 13, Chinese media reported that his residence was searched by Foxconn employees, and that he was beaten and interrogated by his superiors—actions that are illegal under both Chinese and American law. The incident raised questions regarding Apple's secrecy policy and working conditions in their Chinese factories. An Apple spokesman told reporters that the company was "saddened by the tragic loss of this young employee." Apple's relationship with Foxconn regarding corporate security has been a continuing subject of controversy since Sun Danyong's death.
Apple policy on how it influences the corporate culture of its suppliers is presented in the "Supplier Responsibility Progress Reports" document. Holding suppliers accountable for their errors and omissions in their relationship with Apple is an area of concern Apple takes seriously. In one report, Apple stated:
[our] procurement decisions take into account a facility's social responsibility performance, along with factors such as quality, cost, and timely delivery. When social responsibility performance consistently fails to meet Apple expectations, we terminate business.
Given Apple's stated policy at the time of the death, terminating relationships with such suppliers was potentially difficult without incurring huge financial losses.
Later in April 2010, four workers committed suicide in a single month in the same factory, signifying the beginning of the 2010 "Foxconn suicides" incident. By May 2010, 12 workers had committed suicide at Foxconn's operations in China - although the number of suicides was lower than the general suicide rate in China. Apple, HP, and others stated that they were investigating the situation. A total of 18 suicide attempts were recorded at the Foxconn facility in 2010, with 14 attempts resulting in deaths.
In response to the suicides, Foxconn substantially increased wages for its Shenzhen factory workforce, installed suicide-prevention netting, brought in Buddhist monks to conduct prayer sessions inside the factory, and asked employees to sign no-suicide pledges. Workers were also forced to sign a legally binding document guaranteeing that they and their descendants would not sue the company as a result of unexpected death, self-injury, or suicide. After the changes were implemented, it was not clear how employees who fail to abide by the terms of the new agreement will be sanctioned.
|Pre-tax earnings||US$4 billion||US$12 billion||US$22 billion||US$38 billion|
|Global tax||US$4 million||US$7 million||US$10 million||US$21 million|
In the late 1980s Apple was a pioneer of an accounting technique, "Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich", which reduces taxes by routing profits through Irish subsidiaries and the Netherlands and then to the Caribbean. In 2004,[Note 1] Ireland, a nation of less than 5 million, was home to more than one-third of Apple's worldwide revenues, according to company filings. Robert Promm, Apple's controller in the mid-1990s, called the strategy "the worst-kept secret in Europe". Such strategies helped Apple keep its international taxes to 3.2 percent of foreign profits last year, to 2.2 percent in 2010, and in the single digits for the last half-decade, according to the company's corporate filings.
According to a Senate report on the company's offshore tax structure concluded in May 2013, Apple has held billions of dollars in profits in Irish subsidiaries to pay little or no taxes to any government by using an unusual global tax structure. The main subsidiary, a holding company that includes Apple's retail stores throughout Europe, has not paid any corporate income tax in the last five years. "Apple has exploited a difference between Irish and U.S. tax residency rules," the report said.
Among the findings in the reports are:
- Almost all of Apple's foreign operations are run through an Irish company with no employees.
- Apple pays 2%—or less—in corporate income tax in Ireland.[Note 2]
- Apple Operations International, which provided 30% of Apple's worldwide net profits from 2009 to 2011, doesn't pay taxes anywhere.[Note 3]
- Apple's US profits keep ending up in Ireland, too.
- Most of the $102 billion Apple is keeping "overseas" is in US banks.
- The magic of "check-the-box" makes whole companies disappear.
- Apple is seemingly terrible at estimating its own taxes.[Note 4]
On August 30, 2016, after a three-year investigation by the EU's competition commissioner that concluded that Apple received "illegal state aid" from Ireland, the EU ordered Apple to pay 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion), plus interest, in unpaid taxes.
Quality control and customer service issues
The Danish Consumer Complaints Board reported a fault with Apple's iBook product line and criticized Apple's response to the issue, indicating customer support problems at Apple. In that case, a solder joint between two components fractured after a certain number of computer restarts causing the computer to break down, with most incidents occurring outside Apple's warranty period. Websites such as AppleDefects.com were created in response to the issue and detailed quality control issues with Apple's product portfolio.
Apple has been repeatedly criticized for its unwillingness to honor its warranties and its concomitant penchant for giving any reason for doing so, no matter how bizarre: in 2008, Apple repair centers began to refuse to honor warranties of its products which had been used in an environment it deemed hazardous, i.e., that had been used around someone who smokes; and in 2009, Apple refused to honor its warranty and replace a defective battery on a machine that had a small amount of unrelated cosmetic damage that did not affect the machine's functionality, nor that of its battery.
Despite the existence of a small number of known viruses and malware designed for Apple products, a 2006 report by McAfee found a 228 percent increase in the annual rate of vulnerabilities in the period 2003-5, compared to Microsoft's products, which saw only 73 percent. Moreover, every year since then a significant number of vulnerabilities have been found and fixed through security updates. However, the public's lack of awareness of the security vulnerabilities of Apple products has led to criticism of Apple for misleading the public which has risen over the years. This criticism has also drawn attention to Apple's failure to update its products with security updates in a timely fashion. An example of this was a security flaw in Sun Microsystems's Java, which Sun fixed promptly, while Apple took more than five months to distribute the fix. That is much longer than other companies, and drew sharp criticism from experts and journalists. A recent example is a malware product called MacDefender, MacProtector, MacSecurity, or MacGuard, which is an application that can be installed in OS X by the user; ZDNet's Microsoft Blogger Ed Bott estimates that it has been installed by 60,000 to 120,000 Mac customers who thought it was legitimate anti-virus software.
Overall, experts admit that Apple products are less likely to be breached by a hacker or infected by a virus/malware, though they emphasize that this is mainly due to the lack of interest by hackers in attacking Apple products. In particular they fear that Apple places its clients in danger by not taking action to inform the public of its security vulnerabilities. As David Harley, security expert from anti-virus vendor ESET said, "Any computer user who believes a system is so safe that they don't have to care about security is prime material for exploitation by social engineering."
According to Secunia vulnerability rankings, Apple has led Microsoft in reported security vulnerabilities since 2007, and currently leads all other vendors in reported vulnerabilities for 2010. This ranking, however, doesn't "indicate the actual security (or lack thereof) in the different vendors products; it rather shows that vulnerabilities continue to be discovered in significant numbers in products from even the largest and most popular vendors including those who spend significant resources on improving the security of their products" according to the authors of the study.
In August 2014, it was publicized that hackers had discovered an exploit involving the Find My iPhone service, which allowed them to brute-force a user's Apple ID and access their iCloud data. The exploit was later believed to have been used as part of an August 2014 leak of a large number of private, mostly nude photos of celebrities that had been synced into their iCloud storage. Apple has since denied that the iCloud service itself or the alleged exploit was responsible for the leak, asserting that the leaks were the result of a "very targeted" brute-force attack of iCloud account information.
Misleading warranty claims
On December, 27th, 2011, Apple was fined a total of €900,000 (around $1.2m) by the Italian Antitrust Authority for failing to properly inform customers of their legal right to two years of warranty service under Italy's Consumer Code. According to the Italian agency Apple only disclosed its own standard one-year warranty and offered to sell customers AppleCare for one additional year instead of abiding by the law. The agency fined Apple €400,000 for failing to disclose the legally mandated two-year warranty and €500,000 for selling overlapping AppleCare coverage.
On March 15, 2013, China Central Television aired a program for the World Consumer Rights Day. The program criticized the issue associated with Apple warranty issues in China. The report said, an iPhone always gets an old back cover when being repaired in China. It also states that the warranty period for changed product is only 90 days and the warranty period for Macintosh and iPad are not according to Chinese laws to get warranty in China.
In November 2008, Apple sent a cease and desist letter to BluWiki, a non-commercial wiki provider, alleging a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Apple claimed that a discussion of how to get other hardware and software to interoperate with the latest iPods infringed their copyrights. On April 27, 2009, Odioworks (the operators of BluWiki), backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, sued Apple in OdioWorks v. Apple, seeking a declaration of non-infringement and non-circumvention (an official response that Apple's intellectual property rights were not being infringed upon). On July 8, 2009, Apple ceased claiming infringement, stating that Apple withdrew its takedown notifications, and that "Apple no longer has, nor will it have in the future, any objection to the publication of the itunesDB Pages which are the subject of the OdioWorks complaint." The EFF noted, "While we are glad that Apple retracted its baseless legal threats, we are disappointed that it only came after 7 months of censorship and a lawsuit."
Google has accused Apple (alongside Oracle, Microsoft and others) of trying to take down Android through patent litigation, rather than innovating and competing with better products and services. This ties into Apple's recent patent infringement lawsuits against Samsung, which by July 2012, included more than 50 lawsuits around the globe, with billions of dollars in damages claimed between them. Named as a third party in the suit, Google claims that this is another tactic by Apple to defeat Android, citing Apple's asking a judge to force Google to hand over documents containing Android's source code.
"Boycott Apple" hashtag on Google+
In June 2012, Google+ was in uproar over a recent Apple injunction against the Galaxy Nexus flagship Android smartphone. An appellate court has lifted the injunction as of July 30, 2012, but the injunction made "#BoycottApple" the longest trending hashtag Google+ has ever seen.
Environmental destruction claims
In 2006, Apple announced it would end shipments to Europe of certain products, including the eMac desktop computer and the AirPort wireless access point, as non-compliant with the European Union Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (ROHS).
In 2007, Apple's Board of Directors recommended shareholders vote against proposals for adopting stronger environmental policies, like eliminating persistent and bioaccumulative toxic chemicals, assessing the phase-out of toxic chemicals such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs), and adopting a stronger e-waste "take-back" and recycling program.
On April 21, 2011, Greenpeace released a report highlighting the fact that data centers consumed up to 2% of all global electricity and this amount was projected to increase. Phil Radford of Greenpeace said "we are concerned that this new explosion in electricity use could lock us into old, polluting energy sources instead of the clean energy available today." On April 17, 2012, following a Greenpeace protest of Apple, Apple Inc. released a statement committing to ending its use of coal and shifting to 100% clean energy. In 2013 Apple announced it was using 100% renewable energy to power their data centers, and overall 75% of its power comes from renewable sources.
In 2011, the Beijing environmental group Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) singled out Apple for criticism, accusing the company's Chinese suppliers of discharging polluted waste and toxic metals into surrounding communities and threatening public health.
In June 2012, Apple withdrew its product line from the global registry for greener electronics program, Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), reporting the line no longer qualified for EPEAT's ratings for green certification; the San Francisco Department of Environment then notified its agencies that Apple computers no longer qualified for city purchase funds. The line of products has since been added back.
Timeline of Apple's recorded environmental progress
Apple provides a section of their website, titled "Apple and the Environment," which includes a timeline of their progression. According to their website, Apple starts their timeline in 1990, though the Apple company was founded in 1976.
In 1990, Apple officially released and implemented its environmental policy, while in 1991, a phase-out of lead in batteries began. In 1992, Apple officially became a founding member of the U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR program, which was developed to identify and promote energy-efficient computers and monitors. During this time, there was also a phase-out of chlorofuorocarbons (CFCs) in Apple manufacturing, which are substances that deplete the ozone layer. In 1994, there was also a phase-out of nickel-cadmium batteries, while in 1995, PVC in packaging materials was phased out as well. The first Apple manufacturing site in Sacramento, California became ISO 14001 certified.
ISO 14001:2004 set the criteria for an environmental management system, mapping out a framework that a company or an organization can use. If one chooses to use ISO 14001:2004, it can provide assurance to company management and employees as well as external stakeholders that environmental impact is being measured and improved. The benefits of using ISO 14001:2004 are reduced cost of waste management, saving in consumption of energy and materials, lower distribution costs, and improved corporate image among regulators, customers, and the public.
While this was a big step for Apple, their concern for environmental well-being has continued to grow. In 1997, the first Apple products were tested for conformity to TCO (Swedish Confederation of Professional Employees) standards. TCO standards involve requirements that cover a variety of issues: environment, ergonomics, usability, emission of electrical and magnetic fields, and energy consumption and electrical fire safety. For example, environmental demands restrict the use of heavy metals, chlorinated solvents, and other various things. Mainly, products that are labeled must meet these environmental demands. Two years after Apple agreed to meet TCO’s standards, in 1999, Apple introduced "Apple Product Environmental Specifications (APES) files," in which lead and cadmium in cables were restricted. Shortly after, in 2000, all of Apple’s manufacturing sites became ISO 14001 certified worldwide. This accredited that Apple had a structured environmental management system (EMS) in order to manage environmental impact of their operations. In 2001, Apple computers and displays first met ENERGY STAR requirements, in which they voluntarily phased out tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) in all their plastic enclosure parts greater than 25 grams. They also began to purchase 100 percent of electricity for the Austin facility from renewable sources, called Austin’s "Green Choice" Power Program.
In 2002, Apple continued to build a more environmentally friendly effort. For example, Apple signed the European Union Code of Conduct on Power Supplies, which encourages manufacturers to design power supplies that minimize energy consumption in "off" mode. In 2004, there was a phaseout of substances included in the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive was initiated. Importantly noted, The Apple Supplier Code of Conduct was implemented in 2005, and in 2006, Apple was the first computer manufacturer to replace CRT displays with material-efficient and energy-efficient LCDs.
In 2008, Apple introduced the unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro, which is made with recyclable aluminum and glass enclosures with arsenic and mercury free displays. It is also made with PVC-free internal components. The MacBook Air was the first Mac to use mercury-free backlight technology with arsenic-free LCD display glass. Along with that, the iPhone 3G shipped with PVC-free handset, headphones, and USB cables; BFR-free printed circuit boards; and a mercury and arsenic-free display. Apple achieved a recycling rate of 41.9%. In 2009, Apple revealed a complete life cycle analysis of greenhouse gas emissions, which set a new standard of full environmental disclosure. Apple is the only company of the industry that publishes the environmental footprint of each of its products. Other companies only report on a fraction of their emissions. All of their products became BFR-free with shipping, and mercury-free LED-backlit displays with arsenic-free display glass. The Mac mini, iMac, and Mac Pro met the ENERGY STAR 5.0 specification.
In 2010, all displays that were offered by Apple became mercury-free and used arsenic-free display glass. Apple introduced the Apple Battery charger for rechargeable batteries, which reduces battery waste by 78% and the carbon footprint by 63% over a four-year period. Also, Apple introduced the Mac mini, which was the world’s most energy-efficient desktop computer, because it can operate on 10 watts of electricity (which is less power than a single energy-efficient CFL lightbulb). By this time, Apple also began to build facilities in Cork, Ireland; Austin, Texas; and Sacramento, California, and converted to using 100% renewable energy.
In 2011, Apple introduced iTunes cards that use 100% recyclable paper, and they also introduced the Mac App Store in 123 countries. Delivering digital downloads reduce environmental impact of delivering software by eliminating the packaging and transportation. Apple also eliminates restore DVDs that were previously included in Mac product packaging.
Finally, in 2012, Apple launched the redesigned iMac, using 68% less material and generating 67% fewer carbon emissions than earlier generations. Also, the aluminum stand on the iMac is made using 30% recycled content. Meanwhile, at their headquarters in Cupertino, energy use was cut by over 30%, and Apple provided a biogas-powered fuel cell and built rooftop solar photovoltaic systems. They introduced their redesigned AirPort Express with an enclosure containing bio-based polymers derived from industrial-grade rapeseed and post-consumer recycled PC-ABS plastic.
Greenpeace's criticism of Apple
Greenpeace has criticized Apple for having products that are seen as unfriendly to the environment. In 2007, Greenpeace wrote an article explaining the hazardous materials that have been found in the iPhone, such as vinyl (PVC) plastic with phthalates, along with brominated compounds. Not only that, but Greenpeace also mentions in a different article from 2004 that Apple had refused to take the step of phasing out toxic chemicals in all of their products. They argued that Sony was removing toxins from their TV’s, and that Samsung, Nokia, and Puma had also announced to phase out toxic chemicals in all of their products, yet Apple was not playing their part in the issue.
Because of Greenpeace’s concern, they published a ranking guide in 2006 to improve policies and practices regarding the process of "going green."  Greenpeace reached out to Apple’s fans and consumers in attempt to gain attention of Steve Jobs in September 2006. In order to do this, they launched a "Green my Apple" website that was designed to look like Apple’s site. The caption on the site was, "I love my Mac. I just wish it came in green." They called this the "Green my Apple" campaign. Ultimately, their campaign was successful. Steve Jobs spoke of the company’s desire to become greener in 2007.
Much later, in November 2012, Greenpeace created a ranking of companies in their progression toward greener products and waste management  Apple moved up to number six (out of sixteen), just behind Dell. Number one was WIPRO, and number sixteen was RIM. Apple scored a six due to the company’s lack of transparency on GHG emission reporting, clean energy advocacy, further information on its management of toxic chemicals, and details on post-consumer recycled plastic use. Despite that Apple lost points on Greenpeace’s e-waste criteria, Apple exceeded its 70% goal of global recycling in 2010. Greenpeace argues that the company can increase its score by setting an ambitious goal for boosting its renewable energy use by 2020. Apple also did not plan to phase out antimony or beryllium in their products, but overall, score well on the products criteria. For example, the Macbook Pro has been known for easy recycling.
Apple has been making progress since 2006 regarding greener tactics and products. Presently in 2013, Apple states that they achieve to power every Apple facility with energy from renewable sources. They have already achieved this goal at facilities in Austin, Cork, Munich, and at the Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino. Currently, Apple’s corporate facilities worldwide are at 75% renewable energy.
Collaboration with the National Security Agency
Leaked National Security Agency documents obtained by The Guardian and The Washington Post in June 2013 included Apple in the list of American companies that allegedly cooperate with PRISM, which authorizes the government to secretly access data of non-American citizens hosted by American companies without a warrant. Following the leak, government officials acknowledged  the existence of the program. According to the leaked documents, the NSA has direct access to servers of those companies, and the amount of data collected through the program had been growing fast in years prior to the leak. Apple has denied  having any knowledge of the program.
Apple has often been accused of planned obsolescence – the idea that it deliberately manufactures its devices so that they seem obsolete before this is the case, typically with the intent of selling a 'new and improved' version. A class action lawsuit alleging planned obsolescence in the iOS 9 update was filed in New York state in December 2015.
According to Cyber forensic expert Simon Smith there is "definitely" planned obsolescence in iPhone software - such as an imposed rule in iOS 9 that prevented applications in older phones from accessing external websites – a vital function.
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