A smartphone user claims she was ‘violated’ when Samsung employees accessed private photos and conversations while fixing her broken device screen.
Jo Tiffin-Lavers, 28, from Bromley, told UNILAD her stomach dropped when she realised engineers had allegedly browsed her personal photographs, which she said were ‘meant for my fiancé only’.
The part-time law student said she paid £260 to have her screen repaired on January 2 by employees of the Samsung Repair Centre, in Centrale – and wished she hadn’t.
Ms Tiffin-Lavers told UNILAD she dropped her phone off and paid at around 2:50pm, at which point the engineers – who she said seemed ‘legitimate’ and ‘professional’ – had her disable the smartphone’s pattern unlock code.
She picked up her phone at 5:15pm, but when she got home, Tiffin-Lavers looked at her picture gallery and noticed ‘about 12 very private pictures were in my gallery with that day’s date and time stamped at 15:49’.
She quickly realised a selection of highly personal pictures and conversations had been accessed while her phone was in the hands of the engineers.
Speaking to UNILAD, she noted other pictures had not been accessed, explaining:
I checked and they’d been uploaded to my Samsung cloud, whether accidentally or not I don’t know? I checked and the last backup showing was still the one I’d done earlier that morning.
Plus it hadn’t happened to any of my other pictures. I told my other half and he checked a WhatsApp message he’d sent me just before I handed my phone over, which I hadn’t read, and it showed a read receipt of 15:28.
I then checked my Google activity and it logged access to my Instagram account on my Samsung phone at 16:18 and WhatsApp at 16:33.
Tiffin-Lavers described her feelings about the violation, continuning:
I store my pictures on my SD card and they went out of their way to go through my WhatsApp pictures, which I didn’t realise were stored on the internal storage of my phone and meant for my fiancé only.
I felt very violated and upset they’d breached my privacy in that way. I’m a really private person, which is why the violation upset me so much.
I can understand the need to test the screen after repair, but there’s a diagnostic screen they could have used.
Tiffin-Lavers alleges employees charged with fixing her phone had accessed her private conversations and photographs.
After realising, Miss Tiffin-Lavers said she was very emotional and spent the entire night crying, unable to sleep.
She’s since been offered a ‘goodwill gesture’ refund by the Samsung store in question, but told UNILAD she’s still waiting for it, adding: ‘I insisted on taking the phone to Samsung themselves for repair, even though it cost me a lot more – and now I wish I hadn’t.’
Tiffin-Lavers added the store has yet to apologise and the manager, who she described as ‘not at all helpful’, only seemed ‘interested in sweeping it under the carpet’.
This comes amid a number of instances of violations of privacy on smartphones.
iOS engineer Felix Krause has set out to ‘highlight a privacy loophole which can be abused by iOS apps’ and the results of his findings are pretty horrifying.
Once you grant an app access to your camera, it can unleash Black Mirror style hell, with the power to ‘access both the front and the back camera, record you at any time the app is in the foreground’ and ‘take pictures and videos without telling you’.
In other words, Felix told UNILAD:
If you think about the average social media app or messaging service, they could in theory access your camera any time the app is running.
Apple will check for this in the app review probably, but developers could find a way around it.
It’s definitely something which shouldn’t be possible like it is now.
You can watch his handy demo and find out how to combat the invasion below:
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It’s a little scary to think both huge tech companies and some of the individuals they hire have no respect for everyday people, like Jo Tiffin-Lavers, along with their privacy.
Since her initial social media post about the incident received attention in the mainstream media, Samsung have been in touch to apologise to Jo, who says, ‘I’m happy Samsung appear to finally be taking it seriously now’.
If you’ve been victim of cybercrime, please call Victim Support on 0808 168 9111.
A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.