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China deems the iPhone a national security threat

July 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.