Every day, tens of millions of people will swipe the screens of their iPhones to unlock them.On the other side of the world, a young girl is also swiping those screens.Six days a week, twelve-plus hours a day, she repetitively swipes tens of thousands of them. She spends those hours inhaling chemicals that are never disclosed to her. For her labor, she makes less than $17 a day, is forced to work unpaid overtime, and, when her supervisors want to punish her, she is humiliated and forced to clean toilets.Sound like a horror story? According to recent reports, scenarios like this are a waking nightmare for many workers in Apple’s Chinese supply chain.
This was the first few paragraphs of an email I got from a digital rights group. Instantly, I remembered RightsCon, a conference I was asked to present at. My panel was formed to discuss lessons that digital industries could learn from other sectors, like the one I was most currently working in – journalism. I had said that, for the most part, those in this industry had nothing to worry about. They were the guys that produced information on platforms that were designed for us. But, at the end of the day, something gets manufactured in bulk. And that’s been host to an array of problems.
Like this one, where Apple is being accused of not responding to workplace hazards, as well as people passing away or committing suicide after long shifts.
Digital rights activists and those concerned about issues surrounding technology have been adamantly defending the rights and abilities for people to have free and open technology that they can own and use without having to wash blood from their hands. And they’ve been taking it all quite seriously with strong smartphone competition and the emergence of SOPA and ACTA. The idea of an ideologically, ethically and practically free and fair playing ground for those who use technology is of major importance. And, just as SOPA and ACTA are important all over the world to ensure that get to use our technology like it’s ours, issues like these are important to ensure that the technology we’re using can still be made without costing too high a price.
So be sure to read up about factories like Foxconn, how much companies like Apple have to gain and lose, and other issues to our progress where digital rights are concerned.