Apple has published a human rights policy in response to a campaign from SumOfUs, an international consumer group and an Apple shareholder.

Apple Human Rights Policy

In February, 40.6% of investors voted against Apple management to support a proposal submitted by SumOfUs members. It wanted Apple to report every year on its policies on freedom of expression and access to information. The group also wanted greater transparency from Apple on how it responds to requests from China to restrict certain apps.

In an email obtained by The Mac Observer it appears that SumOfUs has been successful. The four-page policy [PDF] says in part:

We believe that dialogue and engagement are the best ways to work toward building a better world. In keeping with the UN Guiding Principles, where national law and international human rights standards differ, we follow the higher standard. Where they are in conflict, we respect national law while seeking to respect the principles of internationally recognized human rights.

In other words, the policy is toothless. Apple already has a good record of respecting human rights, receiving a score of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign in its latest Corporate Equality Index. In spite of this high score, Apple must follow the laws of the countries in which it operates, including authoritarian countries like China, something which is already did before publishing this policy.

Apple human rights policy screenshot

In July, Apple faced criticism for its response to the China-Hong Kong tensions. Tech companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter said they wouldn’t respond to user data requests Hong Kong law enforcement. At the time, Apple said it was “assessing the new law” without taking a stance.

Sondhya Gupta, Campaign Manager at SumOfUs, said:

Apple’s adoption of a human rights policy is a breakthrough moment and we commend Apple for taking this first step. However, we still have questions about how the policy will be implemented and what oversight there will be. Apple has a huge influence on people’s freedom of expression globally, and ultimately, the company’s commitment to human rights will be measured by the difference it makes to the lives of millions of Apple customers living under cyber-surveillance in Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkestan, China, and elsewhere. We will continue to work alongside shareholders and human rights defenders in dialogue with Apple to ensure the company lives up to this responsibility.

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