Suicide Ignites Apple Culture Debate

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A Chinese worker's suicide over an alleged missing fourth-generation iPhone prototype has sparked debate over Apple's code of secrecy, begging the question "Has it gone too far?" But the tragic loss of life has less to do with Apple's shadowy culture than an individual's struggle for mental health.

Sun Danyong, 25, leapt from a 12-story building last week. Employed by Apple product manufacturer Foxconn International since 2008, Sun was in charge of 16 iPhone prototypes. When one of them went missing, Sun allegedly underwent abuses by Foxconn security such as solitary confinement, beatings, and a search of his home.

"The company has noticed there has been much detailed discussion on the Internet and welcomes public discussion on how to help Foxconn's management where it is lacking," Foxconn said in a reported statement. "We will scrutinize those places . . . and strengthen our assistance to young employees."

"We are saddened by the tragic loss of a young employee and we are awaiting the results of the investigation into his death," Apple said in a statement to CNET, one of its few comments. "We require that our suppliers treat all workers with dignity and respect."

This is not the first time Foxconn has been under the microscope for employee neglect. In 2007 it was revealed that the Chinese government suppressed sweatshop conditions at Foxconn's iPod factory.

"Discussion" over Sun's death has led to tasteless headlines and jokes. Agency Spy quipped, "Had this death occurred because of a Zune I'm not sure it would have gotten press" in its article entitled "How an iPhone Killed." Gearlog compares the tragedy to a "Cold War spy thriller." In what is likely a sentence structure error, Gaj-It nevertheless asks "Is this really that bad?"

The focus here seems to be on Apple and its secretive culture rather than an individual who committed an unfortunate act. This highlights a rather disturbing trend in contemporary consumerism to place more emphasis on a shiny new phone than human life. It's my opinion that instances such as these should be treated with dignity and respect rather than Web site traffic-grubbing and misplaced focus. The Internet is a place for discussion, not dehumanization.

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