China deems the iPhone a national security threat

by: Erik EggersJuly 12, 2014


On Friday, China’s state run China Central Television (CCTV)  deemed Apple’s iPhone a national security threat. The threat is due to Apple’s “Frequent Location” feature that is a part of Location Services on the iPhone. According to the Wall Street Journal, the fear is based around the information contained within this feature that would, in essence, enable anyone who had this information to know of China’s secrets.

Apple has not commented on the report, but according to their support page, the feature can be customized or turned off in the device settings. Apple also claims that the information collected is only kept on the device and it will not be sent to Apple without the user’s permission.

Apple’s support page states:

Your iPhone will keep track of places you have recently been, as well as how often and when you visited them, in order to learn places that are significant to you. This data is kept solely on your device and won’t be sent to Apple without your consent. It will be used to provide you with personalized services, such as predictive traffic routing.

Due to fears that the US is spying on other countries, China included, this report comes as no surprise. The documents leaked by Edward Snowden claimed that the National Security Agency was provided information on Chinese leaders by companies such as Apple and Google in the U.S. Particularly in light of these revelations, the US State Department has been in recovery mode in several countries including Russia, Germany, and of course China, where diplomatic relations have soured immensely.

Since the Edward Snowden leak, there has been a huge blowback in China on American technology companies. In May, the Chinese Government banned Windows 8 from being used on new government computers.

What is interesting about this claim is that Android devices have had similar functions for years and the information is also stored. Many device manufacturers in China have devices that run Android. Could we see more reports like this concerning Android devices that use Google Services in the future? Is this economic protectionism, assertion of technological control or diplomacy in the 21st century? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

  • Marco

    It’s funny how China makes the iPhone but they consider it a threat

    • unclescam

      the age of hypocrisy is upon us.

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    • dodz

      example, if you are a gunman, you killed that man with a family, you wouldn’t want that family to kill your family too right?
      its ironic but thats business

    • MasterMuffin

      They don’t make iOS, the software that could be spying on them

      • BZ

        China believes everything Americans make are a national threat, they are going to flip when a NK & SK war stars and the US i mean.. SK takes over and we are right there on their border… that got off topic.. how can iOS be harmful? seriously??

        • MasterMuffin

          And America believes everything China make is a national threat :) And iOS could have some hidden code that allows spying on the government of China!!

          • renz

            that reminds me of Huawei

          • BZ

            I beg to differ on this one, American believe some Americans are a national threat not China, be could reach out there fight and come back for dinner in time (as far as military power goes) Now “any” OS “could” have hidden code that allows spying. I just don’t think iOS would be it since the market share clearly show that more people use Android phones in the world. Now the problem here is China, wanting to control everything, there is no democracy to have your own business if you want to then again they are so mixed with wanting to be a capitalist communist country.

          • MasterMuffin

            I also have to disagree with you. Americans are absolutely paranoid about China and wouldn’t just go “out there fight and come back for dinner”. And what you think doesn’t matter, you’re not Chinese. Apple has given info to NSA and who develops iOS? iOS is closed source so you can’t know for sure what’s in there, but Android is open source and you can just build your own AOSP ROM for the phone is you’re paranoid enough. And China is just a communist America, America wants to control everything as much as possible too

          • BZ

            no buddy you are wrong unless you are in different parts of America and can get a perspective of what Americans think you can’t say that all “Americans”, I have the luxury of doing that and I can tell you American are not “absolutely paranoid” about china, I don’t think you are an American so what you think doesn’t really matter. As far as America being a communist.. well try being an entrepreneur here in America and then try being one in China then come talk to me about it because I’ve done both. But if you haven’t done businesses inside the States, China and are not even from here then your opinion lacks value in this matter. And by the way about the US going out the to throw bombs and come back for dinner it’s already been done when NK was getting ready to attack SK.

          • MasterMuffin

            I’ll just agree to disagree because I know I’m right :P And your bombing and fighting stuff is really off-topic anyways

          • Jim

            Turn around fair play

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    • Luka Mlinar

      That would only make sense if Foxconn is state owned.

      • piet

        Foxconn is Taiwanese, not Chinese but it has factories in China.

        • Cole Raney

          Amd China considers Taiwan as part of China. In fact, Taiwan isn’t officially recognized as a country by the U.S. and many other countries.

    • flamencoguy

      don’t be daft. Apple designed and/or specified components with hidden back doors are entirely possible.

  • Talbot

    Time to assemble the iPhone somewhere other than China.

    • Rex

      Time to stop assembling the iPhone period!

      • XCom

        Most sensible comment! you win internet sir!

  • Gian Pacayra


  • unclescam

    awesome! finally someone calls the US bluff. its so funny to see USA call everyone else a thief, when they are too busy doing the exact same. china picking on it even better, since us always points at china at first chance.

    *grabs popcorn*

  • none

    andoid is open source, cpu and radio is built by them so a bit different than iphone.

  • WPhotography

    iPhone thefts have actually gone down considerably.

  • Mike

    And that China Mobile deal was supposed to halt the inexorable decline in iPhone? Fat chance, with local attitudes and the rise in chinese brands.

  • Sinan Cagrı Kurt

    Google applications are also banned in China(as in stock app). So I don’t see the hipocracy?(even play store doesn’t come with Chinese phones)

    • Jonté Burke

      And that’s why Android can be so easily allowed in China because the OS can be customized by their own Chinese people to ensure no “secrets” get out that way. While iOS can not be customized by them. I’m sure Apple wouldn’t might customizing it for them but I doubt they would ever allow them to do it.

  • Jonté Burke

    I think the difference between Android and Apple location-based software in China is that Android is open and customizable making it possible for China to have their own people go through Android’s software and verify what Android says is true but with Apple they have always held their stuff tight to the vest, which could make it hard to verify what Apple is saying is true.

  • s2weden2000

    “just say no to aijphoney, people”

  • JustSteve

    The bite in the apple has begun to fester….

  • Goblin Shark

    And we’re STILL suffering from 41s cowardly decision not to support the Tiananman Square protests! China’s government can take a “collective” leap off a cliff for all I care.

  • gommer strike

    ban them all. BAN THEM ALL. You and your silly “state secrets”, China. Oh we’re so sorry that we didn’t design every single OS to automatically detect if it might be a “state secret” and instantly ban the user and/or report them to the Communist party. Gosh we’re so sorry.

    • asdf

      You wouldn’t say that if a product China has made and it is being used globally including the US. What if Apple was owned by the Chinese. You could say China is “spying” on USA’s secrets. Im pretty sure the US holds most of the worlds secrets not being biased or anything.

      • gommer strike

        And while we’re on the topic of conspiracy theories, how can we not know, if China retains *MORE* secrets about the rest of the world? They have the means, the intelligence, the sheer manpower to know anything and everything about you, me, and everyone we’ve ever slept with.

        And on the topic of the iPhone being manufactured in China, who’s to say they didn’t sneak something in there? Could be spyware lurking on there, which doesn’t show up in the OS as a running process, but it’s capturing info all the same.

        Nice to see that they’re totally fine with making iPhones, but yet all paranoid about the location services. If it’s so critical as a “national security threat”, then they should immediately and instantly halt any and all production of iOS devices. But since they haven’t done that, they’re not so serious about it, are they?

  • Adon


  • Fabian Taveras

    Lol it’s great to see apples investment in China blowing up in their face big time

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  • Allanitomwesh

    I don’t think they’ll do anything to Android,none of the handsets sold in China have Google Services,rather they have Baidu.

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  • jim

    Leave China

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