NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has claimed that Apple’s iPhone range of devices contains built-in spy software that can be used to track the owner.
According to Snowden’s lawyer, the software can be remotely activated at any time without the user’s knowledge.
"Edward never uses an iPhone, he’s got a simple phone," Anatoly Kucherena told Russian media outlet RIA Novosti. "The iPhone has special software that can activate itself without the owner having to press a button and gather information about him, that’s why on security grounds he refused to have this phone."
Mr Kucherena did add, however, that if consumers wish to use an iPhone then that is their own personal choice.
Snowden’s claims will likely come as a shock to Apple, which has recently been campaigning to improve user privacy. For example, the company has claimed that it would be impossible for government officials to obtain personal data from users operating iOS 8. It has also joined a number of other high-profile technology firms in pushing for stronger privacy protection policies.
According to the Independent, the NSA has published documents that reveal how British intelligent agency GCHQ used the iPhone’s unique identifier, its UDID, to track certain individuals. The documents released so far do not specifically reference any built-in spyware, but it is believed that more documents are forthcoming.
A former NSA contractor, Snowden came to worldwide prominence after leaking thousands of classified documents that he had acquired during his time working with the US intelligence agency. Since the leaks, he has been charged with violation of the Espionage Act and theft of government property and is living in temporary asylum in Russia.
Snowden’s lawyer Mr Kucherena added that Snowden is generally satisfied with life in Russia, but he is believed to be seeking permanent asylum within the European Union.