The WSJ reports that the state-run China Central TV has described the iPhone as a “national security concern” due to its location-tracking capabilities.

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

While CCTV may be ostensibly attacking Apple, its real target is the US Government. China has been increasingly hostile towards the U.S. since Edward Snowden claimed last year that the NSA was spying on Chinese leaders and suggested that U.S. tech firms were assisting these efforts by allowing access to their data.

The broadcast on Friday cited the Snowden disclosures and called U.S. technology firms’ databases a “gold mine.” It also quoted officials who said that China needed stronger data protection laws, and that Apple would need to “take on any legal responsibilities” if any data leaks cause harm.

Apple and other tech companies last year denied that they allowed the NSA access to their servers, though security researchers noted that the wording of those denials appeared to allow for the possibility of indirect access.

It had also been suggested that the NSA had complete access to early iPhones, including both microphone and camera, and that exploit used may have been with Apple’s cooperation – a claim refuted by Tim Cook.

While the claim that location tracking is a threat to national security may be silly, that doesn’t mean that Apple won’t be forced to respond in some way. Tim Cook last year apologized to Chinese customers over warranty issues raised by Chinese state media despite there being no apparent substance to the claims.

Photo credit: Reuters

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15 Responses to “Chinese state TV annoyed by NSA, takes it out on Apple”

  1. I wouldn’t say that they are taking it out on Apple. Their concerns are legitimate. However, other platforms are no less guilty of tracking location data.

  2. PMZanetti says:

    “While the claim that location tracking is a threat to national security may be silly”

    How in the world is that silly? What assurance has Apple or any smartphone manufacturer ever given the world that their location data is secure and private? Their word?

    I’ve seen enough to know that Apple’s word is good enough for most of you. It just stuns me that this what we’ve learned to accept,

  3. “The report quoted researchers who said that those with access to that data could gain knowledge of the broader situation in China or “even state secrets”.

    Well, China, you should know what these GPS-tracking smartphones are capable of since you engineer, build and ship more smartphones than any other nation on the planet. So, should we here in EU and the US ban the import of Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo devices for the same concerns then?

  4. vkd108 says:

    Personally it appears a very important point that China has raised. I for one have always been suspicious of Location Tracking implementations, especially the consequences for mobile users. This is one of the (many) reasons that I hesitate from upgrading my phone from an antiquated, pre-smartphone model. Predominantly I communicate via Mac OS and do not enable Location Services.

    • bb1111116 says:

      @ vkd108;
      “I hesitate from upgrading my phone from an antiquated, pre-smartphone model. Predominantly I communicate via Mac OS and do not enable Location Services.”

      That would be the way for a person to deal with the location tracking issue.
      Do not use a smartphone.

      “Personally it appears a very important point that China has raised.”

      I disagree.
      The China broadcast only mentions the iPhone as a threat.
      So, the ‘point’ of the broadcast is that only the iPhone has GPS tracking that can be theoretically used against the operator of the phone.
      That is false. All smartphones have the ability to track the user using GPS.
      A proper complaint by Chinese media should be to criticize the use of GPS tracking in all smartphones.

      * Instead imo the Chinese broadcast was a way to try to lower Apple’s marketshare in that country.
      It was an unfair trade tactic to criticize a product not made by a Chinese company (and to try to reduce its sales).

    • What’s your worry? That some government agency is going to find out that you traveled to a terrorist hideout in the middle east?

  5. Cun Con says:

    It’s because many chinese officials go to the places where they don’t want people to know…It would be awesome to give Chinese government a middle finger on this. Go f yourself…lol

  6. I think the most important reason to mention Apple alone comes from its popularity there. If Sumsung is reported, no one would care and Chinese already have beefs with koreans. Besides, the noon broadcast is less viewed comparing to the evening one. If it is reported there, this would definitely go on to a different level.
    On the other hand, everyone there knows they don’t have any privacy due to the government so this kind of news is not likely to cause any impact.

  7. cristinegab says:

    I want iPhone 5c but i don’t have money to but that. :(