Apple’s iPhone Branded National Security Threat in China

by Matt Klassen on July 14, 2014

Chinese state sponsored media firm CCTV has branded Apple’s iPhone a threat to national security because of its latent location tracking ability, this story serving both as the most recent salvo in the ongoing privacy Cold War being waged between American and China and as evidence that China is about three years behind us when it comes to smartphone privacy scandals.

In a story relayed by Reuters, late last week Chinese media reported that the iPhone’s Frequent Locations feature could pose a significant national security threat, with one researcher interviewed saying that if such data were accessed it could reveal the “entire country’s economic status,” and “even state secrets.” The story reads exactly the same as the scandal that unfolded here in 2011, the first time we realized that our smartphones might be serving a different master, tracking and storing our location information for unknown purposes.

While Apple was able to weather that initial privacy storm here at home with a few tweaks and a couple of hollow promises, with the story unfolding in a secretive communist nation, one with no love for American products, it means some serious damage control is required, with Apple assuring one of its biggest markets that such location data is never collected by the company and Apple has “never worked with any government agency…to create a backdoor” into its products.

What we’ve come to realize after several years of living uncomfortably with the knowledge that our phones are tracking our every move is that such tracking is not some nefarious extension of Big Brother’s surveillance over our lives (although one might think such an explanation might be embraced by China’s communist regime), but something far worse, an extension of Apple’s vision for individualized and location specific advertising and services.

As I wrote several years ago when this same story broke here at home: “You see, even if Apple is collecting your location information without your knowledge the bottom line is, Apple doesn’t care where you go, who you see, or what you do, unless of course there’s money in it; like money generate from Minority Report-esque specialized location-based advertising.”

Truth be told, I doubt Apple has made any backdoors into any of its products, and I say this with the utmost confidence because if Apple would do something like that it would threaten the one thing the company has always put before its national pride: the almighty dollar.

But such assurances that the latent tracking ability of the iPhone is relatively benign has seemingly fallen on deaf ears in China, but of course that in itself is really no surprise either, as it seems Apple is simply the latest casualty in the ongoing technological Cold War being waged between China and America, one that started with America dubbing several Chinese companies as threats to national security has seen an ongoing tit-for-tat ever since.

In the end I doubt it will be long before Chinese officials and the country’s iPhone users alike realize something we’ve known here for quite some time: that the invasion that accompanies the iPhone is one not about espionage or surveillance or even privacy, but one far more fearsome, the invasion of capitalism.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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