China labels iPhone a security threat


China’s influential state broadcaster on Friday called a location-tracking function offered by Apple Inc.’s iPhone a “national security concern,” in the latest sign of a backlash in the country against U.S. technology firms.

In its national noon broadcast, state-run China Central Television criticized the “frequent locations” function in Apple’s iOS 7 mobile operating system, which records time and location for the owner’s movements. The report quoted researchers who said that those with access to that data could gain knowledge of China’s economic situation or “even state secrets.”

This sort of thing just puzzles me. For starters, Apple has been great about exposing this sort of preference, in this case via Settings > Privacy > Location Services (click here to learn the details). That fact that this feature is bottlenecked under a single setting means it’s trivial to disable.

I have no problem if the Chinese government wants to pass a law disabling this feature as a default, or even permanently. But doesn’t this sort of “security threat” bluster screams market protection and not a genuine concern for citizens’ privacy rights?

  • matthewmaurice

    The Chinese government still denies that it killed unarmed civilians in Tiananmen Square, so I’d take their pronouncements with a Great Wall-sized grain of salt.

    • Mantrax

      “The Chinese government” is not one person, so if we can get past the superficial remarks (do you honestly think the U.S. government is without sin?), we can probably focus on the issue at hand.

      • matthewmaurice

        Did you read the post title?

      • your statements change nothing about what he said.

  • The White Tiger

    It’s (mostly) not market protection, it’s part of a somewhat-legitimate back and forth between Washington and Beijing over spying concerns.

    What I find interesting is that the Wall Street Journal included Taiwan in their chart about market share. Their market is pretty different than the mainland’s, from what I recall.

    • Sigivald

      If it was that, you’d think they’d explain how “state secrets” would be revealed by that – especially given that it’s trivially disabled.

      “Our Top Secret Guys all use iPhones and are too dumb to turn that off, and we’re too dumb to make them use a profile we control”?

      (Note, though, that contra Dave’s final question, China’s government isn’t even pretending it cares about “privacy rights”, just “secrets”, and the “economic situation”.

      The latter best being read as “oh, God, they’ll realize we have a Potemkin Economy”.)

  • James Hughes

    “But doesn’t this sort of “security threat” bluster screams market protection and not a genuine concern for citizens’ privacy rights?”


  • MichaelQ

    No more of a national security threat than Huawei modems could be.

  • Han Vota

    …and they are okay with Android?

    • Nick

      Xiaomi, Huawei, and the others uses Android. Prolly why android is safe…. for now.

  • “The location tracking feature makes it more difficult for us to snatch dissidents and whisk them away to unknown locations”