iPhone not a threat to China’s national security, claims Apple

By Sooraj Shah
14 Jul 2014 View Comments

US technology giant Apple has strongly denied claims that its iPhone is a threat to national security because of its ability to track and time-stamp user locations.

Chinese state-run broadcaster CCTV suggested that the "frequent locations" function could be used to leak information on where a person had been and when. The function, available to iOS 7 users, can be switched on or off.

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Apple describes the feature as being able to "learn places that are significant to you".

But it said that the data would be kept on a user's device and would not be sent to Apple without a user's consent.

It said such data would help to provide users with personalised services such as predictive traffic routing.

But the report by CCTV featured a researcher who described the data as "extremely sensitive". The researcher said that if the data was accessed across the country it could reveal China's economic situation and "even state secrets".

Apple has since denied the claim in a statement on its Chinese website.

"As we have stated before, Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services," it said.

"We have never allowed access to our servers. And we never will. It's something we feel very strongly about".

Apple instead said that the focus of its location-based services was to help users to try to find a restaurant nearby, check the weather forecast or calculate journey times.

"It's important to point out that during this collection process, an Apple device does not transmit any data that is uniquely associated with the device or the customer," the Cupertino, California-based company said in its statement.

The Chinese media have had their fair share of run-ins with Apple in recent years; in March last year, the US firm was accused of treating China's consumers as second-class citizens over its policy for replacing or repairing damaged iPhones under warranty. This forced Apple CEO Tim Cook to personally apologise to Chinese customers on behalf of Apple. 

In January, China announced that it was developing a mobile operating system intended to prevent the growing influence of software produced by western companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft.

The China Operating System (COS) is said to be closed-source, less restrictive than iOS, but protected against Android-style fragmentation problems between devices and versions.

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