Apple Launches 'Enhanced Privacy' Apple Card, Adult Industry Should Beware

Apple Launches 'Enhanced Privacy' Apple Card, Adult Industry Should Beware

CYBERSPACE — The Apple Card, Apple’s new credit card and payment system developed with financial giant Goldman Sachs, was introduced yesterday as a credit industry disruptor and tech status symbol. However, the adult industry and sex workers — often early adopters of new technologies — might want to look at the fine print, and Apple’s dismal track record with censorship and sex worker rights, before jumping on board.

The slick Apple website for the new financial product hypes that the Apple Card "completely rethinks everything about the credit card."

“It represents all the things Apple stands for,” the company continues. “Like simplicity, transparency and privacy. It builds on the incredible ease and security that millions of people love about Apple Pay.”

The incentives to use the physical card — really only a status symbol, as the iPhone’s Apple Pay does most of the lifting — and the cashless digital payment system that is the actual product include colorful budgeting tools similar to Mint, discount cash-back programs through Daily Cash, which is not actually cash as the ecosystem is all-digital, no fees, a commitment to “low interest rates” and Apple’s proprietary security features.

“Apple Card is designed to make sure you’re the only one who can use it,” the website explains. “All the advanced security technologies of Apple Pay — Face ID, Touch ID, unique transaction codes — are built right in. And the physical card has no numbers. Not on the front. Not on the back. Which gives you a whole new level of security.”

The description of this “new level of security” sounds ominous: “When you first get your Apple Card, a unique device number is created on your iPhone. Then it’s locked away in the Secure Element.”

Wait — “the Secure Element”?

The bubble mentality of Silicon Valley has the unfortunate result of making its biggest companies use verbiage that reads like creepy, dystopian, sci-fi villain lingo crossed with imperial finality. Credit is based on trust, and it might be hard to gain the public trust while sounding like Jared Leto in “Blade Runner 2049.”

And then comes this:

“Even Apple doesn’t know what you bought. Or where. Or how much you paid.

"At Apple, we firmly believe in your right to privacy. That’s why we created a unique architecture for Apple Card that generates things like your transaction history and spending summaries right in the Wallet app on your iPhone.

"Of course, Goldman Sachs will use your data to operate Apple Card. But they will never share or sell your data to third parties for marketing or advertising.”

On the one hand, Apple makes an unequivocal commitment to privacy, which would make it attractive to adult industry businesses and sex workers. But Goldman Sachs doesn’t make the same commitment. And as the actual bank running the transactions, they are the ones who will probably act like any other mainstream credit provider.

For all intents and purposes, the “Apple” part of Apple Card is just minimalistic bells and whistles. Goldman Sachs and Mastercard are the “payment processors” here.

As John Drechny, CEO of finance industry group Merchant Advisory Group, recently told Wired, “In general for all merchants this is going to be treated as another Mastercard transaction and it’s going to follow all of those rules. And if merchants accept the card online they’re still going to have the same liability arrangement with the payment network. I don't believe it will be any different than a normal co-branded deal."

This does not bode well for the adult industry or sex workers, as we reach yet another milestone towards the corporate utopia of “a totally cashless” (i.e., completely monitored) society.

Apple and the War on Porn

Everyone knows that Apple’s proprietary App ecosystem is notoriously anti-sexual expression.

Another issue that is not much discussed, though, is Apple’s alignment with supposedly “anti-trafficking” organizations which routinely conflate all sex work with human trafficking, are sex work abolitionists or advocates of the discredited Nordic Model — arresting clients and facilitators, giving law enforcement control over confiscated money and property — and try to drum up the made-up “porn is a public health crisis” narrative.

Last November, Apple accepted the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Stop Slavery Award at the Trust Conference, billed as “an annual human rights gathering.”

Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s retail chief, told attendees that “Apple is teaming up with the United Nations' International Organization for Migration for an initiative that may eventually help victims of human trafficking to get jobs behind-the-scenes at Apple retail locations.”

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook tweeted that he was “proud of this team and the work they do to leave our world better than we found it.”

Ahrendts’ acceptance speech included the following lines: "Though we have only just started, we see (a) huge opportunity to be a beacon of hope for trafficking survivors integrating them into our retail team. These efforts are just a part of a broader set of initiatives to eliminate modern slavery from every part of our company, in every part of the world."

The line “from every part of our company” is curious, as the most common popular perception regarding Apple and “modern slavery” brings up reports and images of crowded Chinese factories in which armies of employees manufacture iPhones around the clock for the hungry Western market under less-than-humane circumstances.

A BBC report on Apple’s Stop Slavery Award mentioned that the company also announced “a ban on contractors withholding their workers' passports or otherwise forcing staff to work until they have paid off a debt.” A ban that had to be made explicit because internal Apple audits had found that there was, essentially, indentured servitude in their supply chain.

A cynic might think this Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Stop Slavery Award and the creepily named Trust Conference were drummed up by Apple’s formidable PR team to whitewash very real accusations of pre-modern labor practices. But this proverbial cynic would be wrong.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation exists and the Trust Conference is their “flagship annual event and a world-leading human rights forum.”

“Held in the heart of London each year,” its website boasts, “the conference brings together some 600 delegates from diverse sectors representing more than 60 countries.”

“Day One will address creating a fairer economic system for those left behind, with a focus on modern slavery, women and girls, radicalization, and the human impact of climate change. Day Two will look at closing civil society space, exploring the relationship between tech and human rights, as well as news and democracy. Both days will feature grass-roots voices from around the world and showcase some of the most innovative solutions to the challenges we’ll be discussing.”

Sounds progressive enough, right? Not so fast: the Thomson Reuters Foundation is “a corporate foundation” and “the philanthropic arm of Thomson Reuters, the world’s biggest news and information provider.” They run the website and this is their mission statement:

“We are geared to action. We leverage the know-how, reach and reputation of Thomson Reuters to run free programs that promote the highest standards in journalism and spread excellence in the practice of legal pro bono worldwide. We act as a source of unbiased thought leadership in areas including slavery and human trafficking, women’s rights and climate and resilience.”

“As the philanthropic arm of Thomson Reuters, we are uniquely placed to engage businesses, governments, thought leaders and civil society, and forge strategic partnerships to tackle some of the world’s most pressing socio-economic issues. Our partners trust our expertise, values, and ability to deliver.”

"Erotic City Zone"

So what kinds of stories about the intersection of sex work and “slavery and human trafficking” does the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which employs local journalists and foreign correspondents plant on newspapers from Lebanon to Malaysia to the U.K. and the U.S.?

Here are some samples:

There are occasional articles by Thomson Reuters Foundation journalists, like the work of Rina Chandran about Thai sex workers that are more balanced. But more typical of the foundation's agenda is Umberto Bacchi, whose piece on decriminalization gives the last word to anti-decriminalization, pro-stigma group Equality Now.

Two years ago, Bahaar Joya, another regular Thomson Reuters Foundation writer, reported a ludicrous non-story headlined “Kinky 'Fifty shades' sex and porn linked to divorce in Iran":

"In the privacy of their bedrooms in conservative Iran, Sabah's husband used to burn her breasts with cigarettes during sex, while Sarah was forced to re-enact scenes from the sadomasochist box office hit 'Fifty Shades of Grey.'

"'He was obsessed with the movie 'Fifty Shades of Grey' and tried to emulate the sexual methods of characters by using handcuffs and a mask,' said Sarah, 29, who was married in the capital, Tehran, five years ago. Both women declined to give their full names."

“Mehrdad Darvishpour, a sociology lecturer in Sweden's Malardalen University, believes the Shi'ite majority country needs to start talking about sex more openly as most men are unaware of women's needs with no sex education in schools."

'The only source of information (men) have is porn movies, which portray women as a sexual tool," he said. "They expect the same in their lives, by treating their wives as sex slaves.'"

But the most notorious reporter on sex work employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation is Beh Lih Yi, their Southeast Asia correspondent. One of Yi’s beats is sex work in East Asia, and she consistently spreads sex work panic stories that also stigmatize porn.

"Japan's curb on porn magazines helps fight 'degrading' sex work” is one of Yi’s headlines. From Malaysia, Yi reported that:

"A move by Japanese convenience stores to stop selling adult magazines ahead of two major sports events could help to stop women being exploited for sex, campaigners said on Wednesday."

"Two large chains, 7-Eleven Japan Co. and Lawson Inc. — which have some 34,000 stores combined — said they would no longer sell porn magazines as they look to clean up their image ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and next year’s Tokyo Olympics."

“'This is certainly a welcome move,' Kanae Doi, Japan director of the non-profit Human Rights Watch, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Tokyo."

“'It has been very shameful ... you can see pornography everywhere in Japan. Women are still seen as sex objects and not treated equally,' she added."

"The distribution of pornography, including sexually explicit manga comic books, is common in Japan. It has been blamed by activists for contributing towards sexual violence against women.”

Earlier this year Yi was also responsible for the Western amplification of the moral panic drummed up for political reasons in Korea concerning a supposed “epidemic” of men secretly photographing women in public bathrooms, which was dubbed “the spycam porn epidemic."

The Thomson Reuters Foundation and its far-flung employees essentially function as a propaganda arm in the current War on Porn and in the push for a Nordic Model "solution" to the supposed "problem" of sex work.

The same "corporate charity" bestows awards on Apple for dubious programs to help unclearly defined "victims of human trafficking" get jobs as at suburban malls' Apple Stores (the BBC report mentions that Apple's commitment to this headline-grabbing social activism program is "self-supervised").

The same "corporate charity" also helps Apple turn their focus away from their labor practices in their supply chains worldwide, which admittedly, according to their own audits, have involved situations that are essentially indentured servitude.

It remains to be seen whether the Thomson Reuters Foundation, or even Thomson Reuters, "the world’s biggest news and information provider," will report whether Goldman Sachs and Mastercard are discriminating against sex workers and members of the adult industry when they apply for their shiny new Apple Cards.

Gustavo Turner is News Editor at XBIZ. Follow him on Twitter.

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